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Iranian officials accept draft agreement on uranium transfer

Iran had tentatively agreed to the reactor deal at a meeting in Geneva on Oct. 1. This week's meetings were intended to reach a final agreement on technical issues, such as timing and payment for the transaction.

Many of the details remain shrouded in secrecy, but a French diplomat said that the document is "not that far from what" the United States and its allies were seeking -- for the material to be transferred by the end of the year, for the material shipped to make up a significant part of Iran's stockpile and for Tehran to transfer all uranium at once, rather than in batches. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

Obama administration officials on Wednesday would not comment on the talks.

Up until Wednesday, the talks teetered between stalemate and collapse. Iranian officials, perhaps attempting to sow division among the parties, refused to meet with negotiators from France, saying it had reneged on a previous nuclear agreement. Much of Tuesday's negotiations consisted of bilateral sessions, including a direct meeting between the U.S. and Iranian teams.

The U.S. delegation was led by Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel B. Poneman, making the talks the highest-level negotiations between the two countries since the Iranian revolution three decades ago.

France is one of two countries with the technical expertise to fabricate the metal plates for the reactor -- the other is Argentina -- but under an apparent face-saving compromise, Iran will contract with Russia, which, in turn, will subcontract work to France, diplomats said.

The French diplomat said the difficulties were typical of any dealings with Iran. "They like to bargain," even if they are prepared to say yes, he said. "It is just the way they do it."

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