Iran and six world powers are hurtling toward a Nov. 24 deadline for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Iran's deputy foreign minister said he believes a resolution can be reached by the deadline while international inspectors noted Tehran’s uranium stockpile has grown 8 percent in the past two months, Reuters reported.
“No middle solutions exist and all our thoughts are focused on how to reach a settlement,” said Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, in an interview with the government-sponsored Islamic Republic News Agency. Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear activities resumes Nov. 18 in Vienna, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said there were no plans to extend the talks past the Nov. 24 deadline.
Meanwhile, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report on Iran’s nuclear activities Friday, saying Iran’s stockpile of refined uranium gas stood at 8,390 kilograms, an 8 percent increase since the agency’s last report in September. The uranium gas was refined to a fissile concentration of 5 percent.
Western countries fear Iran may eventually enrich uranium to 90 percent, making it usable for a nuclear weapon while Tehran has maintained its enrichment program is for energy use in power plants. The amount of refined uranium gas Iran holds factors into calculations on how much time it would potentially need to assemble a nuclear weapon. Under a temporary deal reached last year, Iran halted its programs to enrich uranium to 20 percent, but continues to process it at lower levels.
Some of the thorniest issues that have yet to be resolved in negotiations include an agreement on Iran’s overall enrichment capacity, the duration of any agreement and the timing of removing economic sanctions against Tehran.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will meet with Kerry and European Union diplomat Catherine Ashton in Oman Sunday for preliminary talks before the nuclear negotiations resume next week.