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October 21, 2009

Nuclear deal drafted Wednesday, signatures due Friday

An agreement calling for Iran to send its domestically-produced low-enriched uranium abroad for further enrichment and then have it returned for medical use (what is being called by some the “elegant solution”) was accepted by negotiators in Wednesday’s negotiations in Vienna. Friday is the current deadline for delegations from France, Russia, the US, and Iran to sign it.
Mohamed ElBaradei called the development “a balanced approach to the problem.”
David Sanger wrote about concerns regarding the timing of uranium shipments:

NYT: “If Iran actually sends the low-enriched uranium to Russia in a single shipment, as the draft document states, it would have too little fuel on hand to build a nuclear weapon for roughly a year, according to the agency’s experts. If the fuel leaves Iran in batches, the experts warn, Iran would have the ability to replace it almost as quickly as it leaves the country.”

Julian Borger of the UK’s Guardian also wrote an article on the nuclear deal and a blog post based on discussions with a diplomat involved in the negotiations which addresses the timing of shipments. He writes:

“The fuel would be sent by the end of the year, and sent out in bulk, not in small parcels.”

He has also recently added new information on the possible deal:

Update: some more details. 1200 kg of Iranian LEU (just under three quarters of the present stockpile) would be shipped by the end of the year. The four signatories of the deal would be Iran, Russia, France and the IAEA, not the US (as stated in earlier reports). France’s role in fuel fabrication would be presented as optional, as a way of soothing Iranian sensitivities over past uranium deals with France that went sour.

The draft is a significant step forward in talks and a good reason for hawks to reign in sanctions rhetoric, much less talk of the military option for a while longer. Incidentally, and on a completely unrelated note…don’ t miss AEI’s event: “Should Israel Attack Iran?” this Friday.

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