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U.N. Powers Ask Iran to Reduce Uranium Enrichment

Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili speaks to reporters on Wednesday after two days of talks with representatives of six world powers in Kazakhstan. The governments called on Iran to "reduce the readiness" of operations at one uranium enrichment plant, one source said (AP Photo/Pavel Mikheyev). Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili speaks to reporters on Wednesday after two days of talks with representatives of six world powers in Kazakhstan. The governments called on Iran to "reduce the readiness" of operations at one uranium enrichment plant, one source said (AP Photo/Pavel Mikheyev).

A new atomic compromise proposal by six major governments urges Iran to "reduce the readiness" of an underground uranium enrichment facility by "standing down" some of the site's centrifuge assemblies, a Western envoy told the London Telegraph in comments reported on Wednesday.

Senior-level Iranian diplomats held two days of talks this week with counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States in their first attempt since last June to resolve a dispute over Tehran's suspected pursuit of a nuclear-weapon capability. The Persian Gulf regional power, which insists its atomic activities are strictly peaceful, would be allowed under the latest multilateral offer to retain sufficient higher-enriched material to operate a medical isotope production reactor in Tehran.

The new offers are short-term "confidence-building measures" toward an ultimate deal, the Western official stressed.

The draft bargain calls for the subterranean site near Qum to end production of 20 percent-enriched uranium -- Iran's highest declared level of refinement -- and "constrain the ability to quickly resume operations there," Reuters on Wednesday quoted a high-level U.S. government insider as saying.

The offer would "significantly restrict the accumulation of near-20 percent-enriched uranium in Iran, while enabling the Iranians to produce sufficient fuel," the insider said. Tehran also enriches uranium to 20 percent at its Natanz facility. The United States and partner nations worry that level of enrichment is a key step toward Iran's capacity to produce weapon-grade uranium.

In previous multilateral meetings held in 2012, the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany pressed Iran without success to fully suspend activities at the Qum complex, end all enrichment of uranium to 20 percent and relinquish stocks of the higher-level material.

An International Atomic Energy Agency insider on Wednesday said the nation is now capable of rapidly boosting production of higher-enriched uranium. One envoy said "Iran can triple 20 percent production in the blink of an eye."

A European international relations official on Wednesday said the "final goal" of the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany is still to end all Iranian production of higher-enriched uranium, Kyodo News reported.

The Obama administration could take executive action to eliminate certain unilateral penalties against Iranian financial operations and trade involving rare minerals or petroleum products, al-Monitor reported on Wednesday.

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