Iran Is Ready to Suspend 20% Uranium Enrichment, Russia Says

Iran is ready to suspend enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, a key demand of world powers at talks over its disputed nuclear program, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

In return, the Persian Gulf nation must be offered “weighty reciprocal steps,” including a gradual lifting of unilateral and United Nations sanctions, Lavrov said in an interview with the Kuwaiti news service Kuna posted today on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

“This could become a breakthrough agreement that could largely remove the tension surrounding the existing problems, including concern about enrichment rising to weapons level,” he said. “It would be unforgivable not to use this opportunity.”

Progress on an interim proposal by the world powers for Iran to suspend its 20 percent enrichment of uranium in return for limited relief from sanctions was scuttled at the latest round of talks in April by Iran’s insistence on being assured that what it sees as its right to peaceful enrichment of uranium will eventually be recognized.

Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili said that while his country would consider the step of suspending enrichment at 20 percent levels, “we must know upon what foundations it rests.” Recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful use under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would move the talks forward, he said.

The six world powers -- the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia -- haven’t yet set a date and place for the next round of talks with Iran.

Iranian President-elect Hassan Rohani said yesterday that he’ll make the country’s nuclear program more transparent as he seeks to ease tension with the U.S. and reduce “brutal” sanctions that have crippled the economy.

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

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