What has been agreed concerning Iran’s nuclear programme?

Iran has agreed to send 1,200kg of low-enriched uranium to Turkey. In return, Russia and France would provide Iran within a year with fuel for use in a medical research reactor in Tehran.

A similar deal was first suggested in October in a US-backed compromise offer. For months, Washington complained that Iran did not respond seriously. Now Brazil and Turkey have brokered the deal.

This addresses two US concerns: that the uranium will be sent out of the country, meaning that Iran would not be able to enrich it further to weapons-grade level, and Russia and France will have time to produce the fuel for Tehran.

So the US must be happy about all this?

Not really. Semi-aghast would be a better description. Already diplomats and analysts have identified possible holes in the announcement, noting that a formal international agreement will still have to be negotiated and that it may be unrealistic to produce the fuel that Iran wants in just a year.

They add that since Iran has continued to enrich uranium since October, it may in any case have enough to produce a nuclear weapon even if the transfer to Turkey takes place. They also highlight Iran’s determination to continue enriching uranium to just short of weapons-grade levels.

Under the announcement, Iran will notify the International Atomic Energy Agency of its plan to export the uranium within a week. It will then be up to the IAEA, US, Russia and France to respond. Iran will do nothing until they have agreed to the arrangement. So this leaves the ball very much in Washington’s court.

What about sanctions?

The US had hoped to get a deal on imposing new sanctions on Iran among the United Nations Security Council’s permanent members this month. Washington then hopes to secure the support of the rest of the Council – including Turkey and Brazil, both temporary members – in June. This development greatly complicates that plan.

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