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Iran Nuclear Deal Could Allow It to Enrich up to 5%, Russia Says

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov waits before the start of two days of closed-door nuclear talks at the United Nations offices in Geneva, on October 15, 2013. Photographer: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Iran and world powers may strike an accord allowing the Islamic republic to continue enriching uranium up to 5 percent purity, according to Russia’s chief negotiator at the talks.

“In the absence of trust between the two sides, we have to concentrate on what causes the most concern,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said today in a phone interview in Moscow. “Among the six powers, enrichment above 5 percent has always been a focus because the Iranian nuclear program is continuing to expand.”

Iran is seeking an end to European Union and U.S. sanctions, Ryabkov said. “If progress continues at the talks, there’s no reason why we can’t agree on the lifting of all unilateral sanctions. The exact timetable is a matter for discussion,” he said.

The U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China agreed at talks with Iran last week in Geneva to hold a new round of negotiations on Nov. 7-8 after the Iranians offered concessions. The discussions were the first since Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s new president, took office.

While the so-called P5+1 powers and Iran probably won’t be able to reach a final agreement at the next round, the “constructive” attitude of the Iranian negotiators means the talks should yield “some results so that the road toward a compromise becomes irreversible,” Ryabkov said.

The U.S. and its allies suspect Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons, while the Persian Gulf nation insists its atomic program is to generate electricity.

Sanctions imposed over the nuclear program have slashed Iran’s crude oil exports -- the country’s main source of revenue -- by half since last June, wreaked havoc on its currency and fueled inflation.

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