“We are prepared to negotiate a strictly limited enrichment program,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement on Tuesday.
Iran had already said that any nuclear deal with the six world powers must recognize Tehran’s right, under the non-proliferation treaty or NPT, to keep enriching uranium as part of a nuclear energy program. The new statement however, is the first on-the-record confirmation from the US side.
Last month, Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – reached an interim agreement after a decade-long dispute over the Iranian program. Negotiations are set to be continuing until a comprehensive deal is reached within a year or so.
Israel opposes any permanent enrichment capacity, claiming that at even low levels, the infrastructure required for such enrichment would help Iran get closer to a military nuclear program. Tehran has repeatedly rejected any willingness to pursue a military program, arguing that as a signatory to the NPT, it only wants to practice its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.
“If we can reach an understanding on all of these strict constraints, then we can have an arrangement that includes a very modest amount of enrichment that is tied to Iran’s actual needs and that eliminates any near-term breakout capability,” Meehan said.
US retired Gen. Michael Hayden also has admitted that Iran will even be able to keep its enrichment activity under the Nov. 24 deal, reached after three rounds of intense talks, since October, in Geneva, Switzerland.
“We have accepted Iranian nuclear enrichment,” the former CIA and NSA director said on Fox News Sunday, referring to the agreement.