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Nations to Propose Lowering Iran Gold Restrictions in Exchange for Nuclear Curbs

A goldsmith in Tehran holds Iranian gold coins in January. Six major powers are reportedly prepared to ease curbs on Iranian gold trade if the nation moves toward shuttering a uranium enrichment plant (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi). A goldsmith in Tehran holds Iranian gold coins in January. Six major powers are reportedly prepared to ease curbs on Iranian gold trade if the nation moves toward shuttering a uranium enrichment plant (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi).

A draft nuclear compromise plan formulated by six key governments calls for Iran to move toward shuttering its Qum uranium enrichment complex in exchange for curbs on trade restrictions targeting rare minerals such as gold, Western government personnel told Reuters on Friday.

The five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany would submit the proposal at a meeting with Iran scheduled for Feb. 26 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, according to the insiders. The sides last year convened three high-level meetings in an effort to address international fears that Iran's purportedly peaceful atomic activities are serving as cover for pursuit of a nuclear-weapon capability.

One source said the plan "is remarkably close to the old one" and "a way to test whether [the Iranians] are serious or not." The previous proposal called on Tehran to halt enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, divest itself of its existing stock of higher-enriched material, and end operations at the Qum site.

"We don't think the Iranians have given us reason to do much more," the insider said. "It's basically an update ... so it does require a little bit more from Iran in terms of cooperation with the (International Atomic Energy Agency) and at [Qum]."

The six negotiating nations would press for Iranian steps to "build in buffer time" resulting in the underground Qum complex requiring "more time to restart," another source said without elaborating. The site is capable of significantly accelerating its uranium refinement -- a process that can produce both civilian and weapon material -- but it was not thought to have sped up operations as of the second week of February, Western international relations sources stated.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Monday said the powers "want to take away the rights of a nation in exchange for allowing trade in gold," Reuters reported separately.

The Qum bunker facility "will never be shut down," Iranian lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi said in a Sunday Reuters report. "Our national duty is to be able to defend our nuclear and vital centers against an enemy threat," the Iranian Students' News Agency quoted him as saying.

Iran's supreme religious leader on Saturday said his nation thinks "nuclear weapons must be eliminated,” the New York Times reported.

“We don’t want to build atomic weapons. But if we didn’t believe so and intended to possess nuclear weapons, no power could stop us,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated in remarks published on this website.

Meanwhile, a number of issue experts have suggested Iran might have developed new atomic expertise in response to global economic penalties, preparing the nation to manufacture higher-quality nuclear gear for potential transfer to other nations, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

Legislation submitted on Friday by Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) calls for appointment of a special U.S. representative to Iran, according to a press release from the lawmaker.

Western intelligence insiders have asserted Iranian atomic specialist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh might have witnessed North Korea's latest atomic test detonation last week, the Times of Israel reported on Sunday. The newspaper cited a Sunday report by the London Times.

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