Report: Iran Hasn’t Expanded Nuclear Facilities in Months

Potential good news before renewal of talks

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A new report by the United Nations atomic watchdog says Iran has frozen expansion of its nuclear facilities for the last three months, a potential confidence-booster before talks resume next week.

Issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the quarterly report said only four new uranium enrichment centrifuges were operating at the Natanz plant and no new-generation IR-2M centrifuges have began operating at the IR-40 reactor being built in Arak. During a recent round of the so-called P5+1 talks in Geneva, major world powers negotiating with Iran were concerned about the Arak reactor because once it begins providing the Islamic Republic with plutonium — an alternative to uranium — the site can’t be taken out by a military strike.

“There is absolutely no technical reason for this [freeze],” a senior Iranian diplomat told AFP. “This is clearly a choice.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said this week that negotiations in Geneva had come “extremely close” to a deal. On Thursday, as members of Congress mulled whether to expand economic sanctions against Iran, Kerry told MSNBC that a “tiny portion” of Iranian assets may be freed under a proposed agreement in exchange for the scaling back of its nuclear program.