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Iran's Bushehr nuclear facility, one of several nuclear site where Iran has blocked international inspectors

Russia says that Iran is ready to stop enriching 20 percent grade uranium, a key ingredient towards making a nuclear weapon, but Iran expects the West to lift economic sanctions in return.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did not say exactly what Iranian officials agreed to this grand gesture, one day after Iran’s president-elect Hassan Rohani vowed that Iran will continue to enrich uranium. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu previously has warned that the only level of uranium enrichment that Iran should be allowed to produce is “zero percent.”

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A higher grade of enrichment is a step closer to producing a nuclear weapon, but lower grade enrichment, needed for fuel roads in the Bushehr nuclear energy plant. Iran’s refusal to allow international inspectors into its nuclear facilities precludes the possibility of knowing how much 20 percent enriched uranium the country already has stockpiled.

“For the first time in many years, there are encouraging signs in the process of settlement of the situation with the Iranian nuclear program,” Lavrov said in the interview to Kuwait’s KUNA news agency. The interview was published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s site but was not published in Iran.

Lavrov insisted that Iran’s preparedness to stop high-level enrichment of uranium “could become a breakthrough agreement.”

Then he dropped the joker in the deck: Iran’s grand gesture “implies significant reciprocal steps” by the six world powers who have unsuccessfully tried to convince Iran to cooperate with nuclear inspectors to stop its nuclear program.

“The international community must adequately respond to the constructive progress made by Iran, including gradual suspension and lifting of sanctions, both unilateral and those introduced by the UN Security Council. It would be a shame not to take advantage of this opportunity,” Lavrov concluded.

The next step is predictable. The West will demand some kind of evidence that Iran can speak for itself instead of letting Russia act as its mouthpiece.

Step Number Two will be Iran’s demand that sanctions be removed because, after all, how can it trust the West to inspect its nuclear facilities and then find a reason not lift sanctions?

Rohani won’t take office until August, so Iran still has several weeks to enrich more high-grade uranium.

After August, expect another few weeks, or months, of negotiating about how to negotiate an agreement.

By that time, maybe Iran will have enough high-grade uranium for a bomb.

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