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Iranian Envoy Sees New Momentum on Arak Reactor Dispute

Iran's Arak heavy-water reactor complex, shown in 2004. A senior Iranian diplomat said his country is considering international "ideas" for clearing up fears about the site's bomb-making potential. Iran's Arak heavy-water reactor complex, shown in 2004. A senior Iranian diplomat said his country is considering international "ideas" for clearing up fears about the site's bomb-making potential. (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

A senior Iranian envoy has hinted at progress in resolving a dispute over a heavy-water reactor capable of generating plutonium, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Ravanchi said Iran is reviewing "ideas" presented by six other countries for resolving fears that the Arak site could produce the bomb-usable substance upon activation, the newspaper said on Monday, before new high-level talks began. Tehran denies harboring any nuclear-weapon ambitions, but has joined discussions on potentially restricting its arms-relevant atomic activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

"We know each other's positions on Arak very well," the diplomat said, referring to negotiators from Iran and counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The sides are trying to hammer out a long-term successor to an interim nuclear accord reached late last year.

Tehran, Ravanchi said, is "ready to address legitimate concerns about the possible proliferation that might arise with regard to Arak."

A spokesman for a key discussion coordinator confirmed that the heavy-water facility is a central focus of a two-day multilateral meeting that began on Tuesday, Bloomberg reported.

"We’re involved in very detailed and substantial negotiations," said Michael Mann, a spokesman for European Union Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton. Ashton joined Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to open this week's gathering in Vienna, but the officials later turned over leadership of the talks to lower-ranking officials, Reuters reported.

A second high-level Iranian diplomat said the perception of Arak "as an easy and speedy way to develop a nuclear bomb raises concerns which we have agreed to address," according to Bloomberg.

Still, "this doesn't mean it will be closed or converted to another facility," Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said last week.

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