U.S. looks for Iran to slow uranium enrichment

Reuters

By Arshad Mohammed and Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, Oct 3 (Reuters) - The United States is lookingfor Iran to take specific steps to slow its uranium enrichmentand to open a wider window into its nuclear program, a top U.S.official said on Thursday ahead of Oct. 15-16 negotiations withTehran.

Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S.negotiator with Iran, also urged U.S. lawmakers to hold off onimposing additional sanctions against Iran ahead of the talks.

In testimony for Congress, Sherman held out the possibilityof sanctions relief for Iran, but she made it clear the UnitedStates expected concrete actions from Tehran before this couldhappen and said all U.S. concerns about Iran's nuclear programmust be addressed before the core sanctions could be removed.

"We will be looking for specific steps by Iran that addresscore issues, including but not limited to, the pace and scope ofits enrichment program, the transparency of its overall nuclearprogram and (stockpiles) of enriched uranium," Sherman told theSenate Foreign Relations Committee.

"The Iranians in return will doubtless be seeking somerelief from comprehensive international sanctions that are nowin place," she added. "We have been clear that only concreteviable steps, and verifiable steps, can offer a path tosanctions relief."

The United States, which broke diplomatic ties with Iran in1980 after the Islamic revolution, and its allies suspect Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to developnuclear weapons. Iran denies this, saying its program is forsolely civilian and peaceful purposes.

Six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russiaand the United States - will meet Iran's new negotiating team inGeneva on Oct. 15-16 to discuss its nuclear program.

The United States and its allies have imposed extensivesanctions against Iran, including a U.S. law that forced buyersof Iranian crude to sharply cut their purchases, because ofTehran's failure to address their concerns about the nuclearprogram.

At the hearing, Senate Foreign Relations Committee ChairmanRobert Menendez, a Democrat, said some U.S. lawmakers are movingforward on new U.S. sanctions to further cut Iranian petroleumsales, but held out the possibility of sanctions relief if Iranlives up to its U.N. Security Council obligations.

Those obligations include ceasing the enrichment of uranium,a process that can produce fuel for nuclear power plants or, ifextended, fissile material for an atomic bomb.

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