Talks over Iran’s nuclear program resume

World Today

Switzerland US Iran Nuclear Talks US Secretary of State John Kerry, center, arrives at the hotel prior to a bilateral meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for a new round of Nuclear Talks, in Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Keystone,Salvatore Di Nolfi)

The United States and Iran are working on a two-phase deal that clamps down on Tehran’s nuclear program for at least a decade before providing it leeway over the remainder of the agreement to slowly ramp up activities that could be used to make weapons.

Officials from some of the six-power talks with Iran said details still needed to be agreed on, with U.S. and Iranian negotiators meeting Monday for the third straight day ahead of an end-of-March deadline for a framework agreement. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined the negotiations after arriving Sunday.

A breakthrough was not expected before Kerry returns to Washington later Monday. Still, Western officials familiar with the talks cited long-awaited progress on some elements that would have to go into a comprehensive deal.

The idea would be to reward Iran for good behavior over the last years of any agreement, gradually lifting constraints on its uranium enrichment program and slowly easing economic sanctions.

Iran said it does not want nuclear arms and needs enrichment only for energy, medical, and scientific purposes, but the U.S. fears Tehran could re-engineer the program to another potential use — producing the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.

The U.S. initially sought restrictions lasting for up to 20 years, while Iran had pushed for less than a decade. The prospective deal appears to be somewhere in the middle.

One variation being discussed would place at least 10-year regime of strict controls on Iran’s uranium enrichment program. If Iran complies, the restrictions would be gradually lifted over the last five years of such an agreement.

Report from The Associated Press