A German foreign minister today cited "some progress and some setbacks" in an 11th-hour attempt to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran in Swiss talks—and those "setbacks" include a seemingly sudden decision by Iran not to ship the bulk of its uranium to Russia as it had tentatively agreed to do, NBC News reports. "The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our program and we do not intend sending them abroad," Abbas Araqchi, Tehran's main negotiator, told reporters yesterday, per AFP. Araqchi maintained, however, that reaching a basic agreement by tomorrow's midnight deadline was still "doable," and a senior State Department official tried to squash rumors that this would effectively end prospects for an interim agreement, per NBC.
The uranium was to have been sent to Russia, which would have converted it into fuel rods for Iran's commercial nuclear reactor, rendering it difficult for Iran to extract weapons-grade fuel, the New York Times notes. Critics already hesitant about striking a deal with Iran likely won't view the country's latest announcement as a good one. "We've got a regime that's never quite kept their word about anything," John Boehner told CNN yesterday. "I just don't understand why we would sign an agreement with a group of people who, in my opinion, have no intention of keeping their word." But the US and its allies are expected to point out that the uranium could still be watered down to make using it in weapons more challenging, as well as undergo regular inspections to prevent Iran from posing a serious risk, the Times notes.