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Iran, West Said To Be Closing Gap On Nuke Deal As Deadline Looms

Secretary of State John Kerry (left), and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (right) wait for the start of a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotelin Lausanne, Switzerland, on Sunday to discuss a nuclear deal on Iran.

Update at 10:50 p.m.:

Media reports suggest that Iran may be backing away from a significant part of the potential deal — agreeing to send enriched uranium to Russia.

Agence France-Presse quotes an Iranian official, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, as saying, "The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our program ... There is no question of sending the stocks abroad." And Iran's official news agency says an unidentified negotiator denied any such agreement had been made, reports the Associated Press.

The New York Times cited AFP and added, "Western officials confirmed that Iran was balking at shipping the fuel out, but insisted that there were other ways of dealing with the material. Chief among those options, they said, was blending it into a more diluted form."

Our previous post continues:

Inching closer to the end-of-month deadline for a deal on Iran's nuclear program, major obstacles remain at the table in Switzerland, even as the sides were converging on an agreement to cap and ultimately roll back Tehran's nuclear ambitions, according to reports.

According to The Washington Post, Secretary of State John Kerry, the chief U.S. negotiator, "cancelled an appearance in Boston where he had hoped to attend an event Sunday night and Monday honoring the late Sen. Edward Kennedy."

The Post says: "Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz met early Sunday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, Ali Akbar Salehi. That was followed by a meeting with U.S. and European diplomats."

Reuters reports that Tehran has said it might be willing to accept fewer than 6,000 nuclear centrifuges and sending its enriched uranium for storage in Russia. In exchange, the West might allow Iran to conduct limited, closely monitored enrichment work for medical purposes.

"We're hopeful, but there is still a lot of work to be done," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters on Sunday, according to Reuters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has continued to remain firm on his opposition to any such deal.

"The dangerous accord which is being negotiated in Lausanne (Switzerland) confirms our concerns and even worse," Netanyahu said in remarks at a meeting of his cabinet broadcast on public radio, according to Agence France-Presse.

Netanyahu denounced the "Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis which is dangerous for all of humanity and which must be stopped," making a reference to the Swiss city where the talks are taking place, the French news agency said.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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