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Iran willing to address Arak reactor concerns, says FM - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In this Jan. 15, 2011 file photo, Iran's heavy water nuclear facility is backdropped by mountains near the central city of Arak, Iran. (AP Photo/ISNA, Hamid Foroutan)

In this January 15, 2011 file photo, Iran’s heavy water nuclear facility is backdropped by mountains near the central city of Arak, Iran. (AP Photo/ISNA, Hamid Foroutan)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iran was willing to address concerns that one of its nuclear reactors could be used to create a nuclear weapon, the country’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Speaking after the conclusion of the latest round of talks between Iran and representatives of the P5+1 world powers on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif ruled out Iran dismantling the heavy water reactor it was building at Arak.

However, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, he said that “proliferation concerns” about its operation “have to be removed.”

The Arak reactor was reportedly on the agenda during the second day of this week’s talks in Vienna, along with other aspects of Iran’s nuclear program.

A joint statement issued by Zarif and Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief and chair of the P5+1 delegation, said: “Based on the framework for the negotiations established at our meeting last month, we had substantive and useful discussions covering a set of issues, including enrichment, the Arak reactor, civil nuclear cooperation and sanctions.“

US and Iranian officials also met for direct bilateral talks on the sidelines of this week’s talks, which many observers said was a sign of overall progress.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior US official told reporters: “We shared with Iran ideas that we have . . . We have long said that we believe that Arak should not be a heavy water reactor as it is, that we did not think that that met the objectives of this negotiation.”

Iran insists the reactor is intended to be used for the production of medical isotopes, though waste plutonium from the reactor could theoretically be used to build a nuclear weapon.

Although experts say this would require the construction of a reprocessing facility that Iran does not currently possess and would be difficult to conceal from international inspectors, the US and other members of the P5+1 have pushed Iran to halt construction on the Arak facility.

Among proposals under discussion are the idea of converting Arak into a Light Water Reactor, or reducing its power level, both of which present less of a proliferation risk, according to nuclear experts.

The talks are due to resume on April 7 in Vienna.