US, Iran discussing nuclear talks compromise

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US Iran Nuclear Talks -- Congress -- John Kerry -- updated 5/22/2015
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US, Iran discussing nuclear talks compromise
President Barack Obama speaks at Adas Israel Congregation, Friday May 22, 2015, during Jewish American Heritage Month. The president Barack Obama said he has a personal stake in making sure that a nuclear agreement with Iran delivers on its promise. Saying he will not accept a bad deal. He adds: "This deal will have my name on it." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 14: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (2nd L) (R-TN) gavels the start of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee markup meeting on the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran April 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. A bipartisan compromise reached by Corker and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) would create a review period that is shorter than originally proposed for a final nuclear deal with Iran and creates compromise language on the removal of sanctions contingent on Iran ceasing support for terrorism. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 14: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (L) (R-TN) shakes hands with ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin (R) (D-MD) during a committee markup meeting on the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran April 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. A bipartisan compromise reached by Corker and Cardin would create a review period that is shorter than originally proposed for a final nuclear deal with Iran and creates compromise language on the removal of sanctions contingent on Iran ceasing support for terrorism. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 14: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (Rear), a Republican presidential candidate, passes Sen. Marco Rubio (bottom), a Republican presidential candidate, as senators make their opening remarks during a markup meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran April 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. A bipartisan compromise reached by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) would create a review period that is shorter than originally proposed for a final nuclear deal with Iran and creates compromise language on the removal of sanctions contingent on Iran ceasing support for terrorism. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
The Senate Foreign Relatipons Committee's ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., left, slaps Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. on the back as they speak to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, after the committee passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. Republican and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reached a compromise Tuesday on a bill that would give Congress a say on an emerging deal to curb Iran's nuclear program. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., center, talks with John Barrasso, R-Wyo, left, as they arrive with the committee's ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., right, for a committee business meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, to debate and vote on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 on. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., center, and the committee's ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., right, speak to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, after the committee passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. Republican and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reached a compromise Tuesday on a bill that would give Congress a say on an emerging deal to curb Iran's nuclear program. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A protestors listens as right Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., left, and the committee's ranking member Ben Cardin, D-Md., center, meet with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, following the committee's vote to approve a bill that would give Congress a say about the emerging deal aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Republican presidential candidate and Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting to debate and vote on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, during debate and vote on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. Republican and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reached a compromise Tuesday on a bill that would give Congress a say on an emerging deal to curb Iran's nuclear program. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, as he departs a briefing on Iran nuclear negotiation. Republican and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reached a compromise Tuesday on a bill that would give Congress a say on an emerging deal to curb Iran's nuclear program. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
US Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he speaks to the press at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, or Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday, April 2, 2015, after Iran nuclear program talks finished with extended sessions. The United States, Iran and five other world powers on Thursday announced an understanding outlining limits on Iran's nuclear program so it cannot lead to atomic weapons, directing negotiators toward achieving a comprehensive agreement within three months. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)
Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz speaks to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 6, 2015. President Barack Obama is casting the Iran talks as part of a broader foreign policy doctrine that sees American power as a safeguard that gives him the ability to take calculated risks. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a news briefing at the Saadabad palace in Tehran, Iran, Friday April 3, 2015. Rouhani on Friday pledged that his nation will abide by its commitments in the nuclear agreement reached the previous day in Switzerland. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 08: Acting U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf conducts a daily press briefing at the State Department April 8, 2015 in Washington, DC. Harf spoke on various topics including the Iran nuclear deal. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama makes a statement at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 2, 2015 after a deal was reached on Iran's nuclear program. Iran and world powers agreed on the framework of a potentially historic deal aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear drive after marathon talks in Switzerland. (Photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
From left Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond speaks to US Secretary of State John Kerry as European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarifat take their positions before making a statement , at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, or Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday, April 2, 2015, after Iran nuclear program talks finished with extended sessions. The United States, Iran and five other world powers on Thursday announced an understanding outlining limits on Iran's nuclear program so it cannot lead to atomic weapons, directing negotiators toward achieving a comprehensive agreement within three months. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)
US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrive to deliver a statement, at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, or Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday, April 2, 2015, after Iran nuclear program talks finished with extended sessions. The United States, Iran and five other world powers on Thursday announced an understanding outlining limits on Iran's nuclear program so it cannot lead to atomic weapons, directing negotiators toward achieving a comprehensive agreement within three months. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, right, waits to make a statement flanked by German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, left and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, or Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday, April 2, 2015, after Iran nuclear program talks finished with extended sessions. The United States, Iran and five other world powers on Thursday announced an understanding outlining limits on Iran's nuclear program so it cannot lead to atomic weapons, directing negotiators toward achieving a comprehensive agreement within three months. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 02: A teleprompter shows the text for U.S. President Barack Obama's remarks on negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program on April 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. In exchange for Iran's agreement to curb their country's nuclear proliferation, the United States would lift some of the crippling sanctions imposed. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 2: U.S. President Barack Obama boards Air Force One after making a statement on Iran nuclear negotiations in the White House April 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. The so-called P5+1 nations reached an agreement for an Iranian nuclear program and a process to lift sanctions against Iran after talks in Switzerland. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (C) walks with bodyguard in the garden of the Beau-Rivage Palace hotel during a break in Iran nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 1, 2015. Rollercoaster talks aimed at stopping Iran getting a nuclear bomb went into extra time amid cautious signs that after seven days of tough negotiations a framework deal may be near.  (Photo credit: ABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) gestures while waiting for the opening of a plenary session with P5+1 ministers, European Union and Iranian minister on Iran nuclear talks at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, on March 31, 2015. Foreign ministers from major powers kicked off early a final scheduled day of talks aimed at securing the outlines of a potentially historic nuclear deal with Iran by a midnight deadline. (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - MARCH 31: P5+1 Ministers, European Union and Iranian officials wait for the opening of a plenary session on Iran nuclear talks at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel on March 31, 2015. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - MARCH 31: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier waits for the opening of a plenary session on Iran nuclear talks P5+1 Ministers, European Union and Iranian officials at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel on March 31, 2015. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry, centre, sits at the negotiating table with U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, left and U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, during a meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif over Iran's nuclear program, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday, March 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Brian Snyder, Pool)
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif walks into another negotiating meeting with United States Secretary of State John Kerry over Iran's nuclear program in Lausanne, Switzerland Wednesday March 18, 2015. American and Iranian negotiators raced to fill out a framework for rolling back Iran's nuclear program and punitive U.S. economic sanctions, hoping for enough progress to call in other world powers for the finishing touches on an agreement next week. (AP Photo/Brian Snyder, Pool)
In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian Supreme Leader, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers speech during a meeting with air force commanders and officers in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. Iran's top leader says no deal is better than a bad deal when it comes to negotiations with world powers over the country's disputed nuclear program. (AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)
WASHINGTON, USA - FEBRUARY 5: Senator Tom Cotton speaks during a news conference with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee about arming Ukraine in the fight against Russia in Washington, D.C. on February 5, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 03: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (3rd L) poses for photographers with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (2nd L), Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) (4th L), Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) (L) and Minority Whip Sen. Richard Durbin (DIL) (R) prior to a meeting at the U.S. Capitol March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. At the risk of further straining the relationship between Israel and the Obama Administration, Netanyahu addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress warning congressional members against what he considers an ill-advised nuclear deal with Iran. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 3: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before joint session of Congress, on March, 03, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks about Iran and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, during a meeting with Defense Secretary Ash Carter in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. The president said Netanyahu didn't offer any "viable alternatives" to the nuclear negotiations with Iran during his speech to Congress. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (Far R) goes for a stroll with assistant and security on the shore of Lake Geneva upon his arrival on February 22, 2015 in Geneva. Kerry arrived in Geneva for renewed talks with his Iranian counterpart on Tehran's nuclear programme, after warning 'significant gaps' remain as a key deadline approaches. Kerry is set to sit down for two days of talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose country denies its nuclear programme has military objectives. (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) arrives at his hotel on February 22, 2015 in Geneva. Kerry arrived in Geneva for renewed talks with his Iranian counterpart on Tehran's nuclear programme, after warning 'significant gaps' remain as a key deadline approaches. Kerry is set to sit down for two days of talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose country denies its nuclear programme has military objectives. (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) walks back to his hotel after on February 23, 2015 in Geneva. Washington and Tehran's top diplomats sat down again on February 23 for talks on Iran's nuclear program as they struggled to narrow gaps ahead of a key deadline. (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (C) goes for a stroll with assistants and security along the shores of Lake Geneva upon his arrival on February 22, 2015 in Geneva. Kerry arrived in Geneva for renewed talks with his Iranian counterpart on Tehran's nuclear programme, after warning 'significant gaps' remain as a key deadline approaches. Kerry is set to sit down for two days of talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose country denies its nuclear programme has military objectives. (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 21: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a media briefing at the U.S. Embassy on February 21, 2015 in London, England. Earlier Kerry met with British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond and it's expected that the issue of the continuing conflict in the Ukraine will dominate talks between the two nations. (Photo by Neil Hall - Pool/Getty Images)
Is the U.S. being too soft on Iran when negotiating on sanctions and a potential nuclear deal? Strategic Policy Consulting's Alireza Jafarzadeh and WSJ's Simon Constable discuss.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Zarif said on Wednesday that his meeting with Kerry was important to see if progress could be made in narrowing differences on his country's disputed nuclear program. (AP Photo/Rick Wilking, Pool)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the media after the closed-door nuclear talks with Iran, in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. Facing still significant differences between the U.S. and Iran, negotiators gave up on last-minute efforts to get a nuclear deal by the Monday deadline and extended their talks for another seven months. The move gives both sides breathing space to work out an agreement but may be badly received by domestic sceptics, since it extends more than a decade of diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's nuclear prowess. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, looks over the weapons carried by Swiss police posing for a picture with him as he departs Geneva Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif met for six hours Wednesday, a day before negotiators from Iran, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany are to resume talks here. (AP Photo/Rick Wilking, Pool)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, waits with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Zarif said on Wednesday that his meeting with Kerry was important to see if progress could be made in narrowing differences on his country's disputed nuclear program. (AP Photo/Rick Wilking, Pool)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the media after the closed-door nuclear talks with Iran, in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. Facing still significant differences between the U.S. and Iran, negotiators gave up on last-minute efforts to get a nuclear deal by the Monday deadline and extended their talks for another seven months. The move gives both sides breathing space to work out an agreement but may be badly received by domestic sceptics, since it extends more than a decade of diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's nuclear prowess. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
Delegations of US Secretary of State John Kerry, Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, , left side from left, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, center right, and former EU foreign pilicy chief Catherine Ashton, center,sit around the negotiations table during their talks on Iran, in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Joe Klamar, Pool)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif laughs with reporters before meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Zarif said on Wednesday that his meeting with Kerry was important to see if progress could be made in narrowing differences on his country's disputed nuclear program. (AP Photo/Rick Wilking, Pool)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Zarif said on Wednesday that his meeting with Kerry was important to see if progress could be made in narrowing differences on his country's disputed nuclear program. (AP Photo/Rick Wilking, Pool)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif talks with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius, during a meeting at the Quai d'Orsay, in Paris, Friday, Jan. 16, 2015. An American official says U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with his Iranian counterpart in Paris on Friday in what will be their second face-to-face encounter this week. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
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VIENNA (AP) -- With time for negotiations running short, the U.S and Iran are discussing a compromise that would let Iran keep much of its uranium-enriching technology but reduce its potential to make nuclear weapons, two diplomats tell The Associated Press.

Such a compromise could break the decade-long deadlock on attempts to limit Iranian activities that could be used to make such arms: Tehran refuses to meet U.S.-led demands for deep cuts in the number of centrifuges it uses to enrich uranium, a process that can create material for anything from chemotherapy to the core of an atomic bomb.

Experts warn that any reduction in centrifuge efficiency is reversible more quickly than a straight decrease in the number of machines, an argument that could be seized upon by powerful critics of the talks in the U.S. Congress.

The diplomats are familiar with the talks but spoke only on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss them. Ahead of a new round of negotiations this week, they said there is no guarantee that the proposal can be finessed into an agreement.

According to the diplomats, the proposal could leave running most of the nearly 10,000 centrifuges Iran is operating but reconfigure them to reduce the amount of enriched uranium they produce.

One of the diplomats said the deal could include other limitations to ensure that Tehran's program is kept in check.

For one, Iran would be allowed to store only a specific amount of uranium gas, which is fed into centrifuges for enrichment. The amount of gas would depend on the number of centrifuges it keeps.

Second, Iran would commit to shipping out most of the enriched uranium it produces, leaving it without enough to make a bomb. Iran denies any interest in nuclear weapons and says its program is for peaceful uses such as nuclear power and medical technology.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said there is a range of discussions going on, focused on cutting off the different pathways for Iran to potentially arrive at a nuclear bomb.

"There are many pieces of the puzzle that need to be put together," Psaki told reporters. These include how many centrifuges Iran operates and how they operate, she said.

Iran offered last year to reduce the output of its centrifuges if it could keep most of them going. That was rejected back then by the U.S. and its five negotiating partners. But both sides are under increasing pressure ahead of two deadlines: to agree on main points by late March, and to reach a comprehensive deal by June 30.

The latest negotiations have been extended twice, strengthening skepticism from both hardliners in Iran and critics in U.S. Congress.

Failure this time could result in a push for new sanctions by influential U.S. legislators, a move that some Iranian officials warn would scuttle any future diplomatic attempts to end the standoff.

The talks increasingly have become a dialogue between Washington and Tehran. Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany are also at the table but recognize that the U.S and Iran stand to gain - or lose - the most.

Iran now has withstood a decade of diplomatic and economic pressure aimed at reducing its program. Washington demanded a year ago that Tehran reduce the number of operating centrifuges from nearly 10,000 to fewer than 2,000. That would increase the time it would need to make enough weapons-grade uranium from a few months to a year or more.

By November, when the talks were extended, diplomats said the U.S. and its partners were ready to accept as many as 4,500 but Iran had not significantly budged.

The possible compromise was revealed ahead of the next negotiating round on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference that starts Friday.

Centrifuges are set up in series - called cascades - to spin uranium gas to increasingly higher concentrations of enriched uranium. The diplomats said one possibility being discussed is changing their configuration to reduce the amount of enriched uranium produced at the tail end of each cascade.

Iran could try to re-pipe the cascades into their original setup. But that could take months, and such attempts would be quickly reported by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, which would monitor Iran's compliance with any deal.

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