- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2014

Iran’s top nuclear official says a recent deal for Russia to build two new nuclear power plants in the Islamic republic has strengthened Tehran’s hand at the nuclear negotiating table with other world powers.

Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said in a televised interview that the deal reached this month with Russia will “make our stances stronger in talks” with the so-called P5+1 group.

His comments, reported Thursday by the Iranian state news service
Fars, come just ahead of the much anticipated Nov. 24 deadline in
talks over Iran’s disputed nuclear program the U.N. Security Council’s
five permanent members — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — plus Germany.

With the deadline for a deal fast approaching, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is engaged in a frenzy of high-stakes diplomacy geared toward securing an agreement — or at least to prevent the talks from collapsing, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

As P5+1 negotiators have huddled this week for talks in Vienna, Mr.
Kerry has been holding separate meetings in London and Paris before heading to check in on the talks in the Austrian capital.

Appearing in Paris Thursday after a meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Mr. Kerry told reporters, “we do want to get an agreement, but it’s not just any agreement.”

“It has to be an agreement that works, that achieves the goal of guaranteeing that the pathways to a bomb will not and cannot be used,” said Mr. Kerry, who added, “we are united, all of us in the P5+1, in our sense of where the issues are, what the issues are, and what we need to do.”

“The partnership of France, the United States, Great Britain, Germany, China, Russia has been solid, even with differences on other kinds of issues,” he said. “We are all working in concert on this.”

Many believe the nuclear talks will be tentatively extended if there is no deal by the 24th to prevent the Islamic republic from reaching the capability to produce atomic weapons.

In Washington, U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle — but
especially on the Republican side — have grown increasingly critical
of a potential deal with Iran, arguing the Obama administration has
been too quick to withdraw economic sanctions before ensuring the
nuclear program is not militarized.

Western powers, and the U.N. Security Council as a whole, have long
accused Iran of violating international standards in the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Iranian leaders claim their nuclear program is purely for peaceful means, such as power generation and medical research.

Meanwhile, Mr. Salehi said rumors in the world’s
media that Iran has agreed to transfer its spent nuclear fuel to Russia or other countries — or is negotiating on the issue — are not accurate, Fars reported.

“There is no reason to send our fuel to Russia,” the Iranian said. Russia’s atomic agency announced earlier this month it will build eight civilian nuclear reactors for Iran, a move that increased the complexity and tension surrounding the international negotiation with Tehran.

Moscow has helped Iran produce nuclear-generated electricity since the early 1990s. But news of the program’s sudden expansion, has prompted speculation that Russia and Iran are colluding to undermine the negotiations.

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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