US wants Iran to take 'first step' of reversing nuclear program in talks

Washington would offer 'limited, temporary, reversible' relief from sanctions in exchange, administration official says

Iran's refusal to curb nuclear activity that can have military applications has drawn sanctions.

The United States wants Iran to agree in negotiations this week to a "first step" that stops Tehran’s nuclear program from advancing and starts reversing parts of it, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

In return for such a move, Washington would be willing to offer Iran "very limited, temporary, reversible sanctions relief," the official said, giving no details about what those measures might be.

The U.S. official was speaking on the eve of two-day talks in Geneva between Iran and six world powers that seek to build on a diplomatic opening created by the election of relatively moderate Hassan Rouhani as Iran's new president in June.

"What we're looking for is a first phase, a first step, an initial understanding that stops Iran's nuclear program from moving forward and rolls it back for the first time in decades," the official told reporters.

This phase must involve levels of Iran's uranium enrichment and its stockpiles of the material, as well as international monitoring, the official said.

"We're looking for ways to put additional time on the clock," the administration official added. Such a first step by Tehran, which denies that it is seeking the capability to make nuclear weapons, would create space for further negotiations on a comprehensive settlement, the official said.

Iran says it is enriching uranium for peaceful energy and medical purposes only. But its refusal to curb sensitive nuclear activity that can also have military applications has drawn sanctions, damaging its oil-dependent economy. 


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