Iran makes offer over uranium enrichment programme

Muhammad Javad Zarif meets John Kerry during talks in Vienna. Photograph: Jim Bourg/AFP/Getty Images

Foreign minister says Tehran willing to pause development for seven years, as nuclear talks in Vienna near conclusion

Iran has said it could accept limits on its nuclear programme, freezing its current capacity for up to seven years on condition it would then be free to operate without any special restrictions.

The offer was made by the Iranian foreign minister, Muhammad Javad Zarif, in an interview with the New York Times six days before a deadline for the completion of talks in Vienna. It still leaves a gap between the two sides’ negotiating positions: western states want Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity reduced, and then frozen in place for at least 10 years, and they have a long list of conditions Iran would have to fulfil over the long term before they would allow it to function as any other state with a civilian nuclear energy programme.

However the Zarif offer, if confirmed, suggests there is enough flexibility on the Iranian side at least to gain extra time for the talks beyond the 20 July deadline, which the negotiating states imposed on themselves. “I’m not here to present maximalist positions,” Zarif said. “We’re here to reach an agreement.”

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