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Published: Tuesday March 18, 2014 MYT 9:10:02 PM
Updated: Tuesday March 18, 2014 MYT 9:11:03 PM

Factbox - Enrichment, Arak among key hurdles in Iran nuclear talks

(Reuters) - The future scope of Iran's uranium enrichment programme and the fate of its Arak reactor - projects the West fears could yield atom bomb fuel - must be agreed if a decade-old dispute over Tehran's atomic activity is to be finally settled.

Both issues are expected to be on the agenda during a March 18-19 meeting between Iran and six world powers - the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia - in Vienna. Iran says its nuclear work is peaceful.

The aim is to reach a comprehensive agreement by late July that would define the permissible size of Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of sanctions that have severely hurt the Islamic Republic's oil exports.

Here is a brief overview of the key issues involved:

URANIUM ENRICHMENT

- Western powers have in effect abandoned idea that Iran must halt all its enrichment of uranium, which they fear may be aimed at developing atomic bombs, but want it curbed.

- Iran says it refines uranium to fuel nuclear power plants, rules out closing Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities.

- It now has nearly 10,000 centrifuges spinning at supersonic speed to increase the ratio of the fissile isotope.

- Number should be cut to low thousands - Western experts

- United States and allies want to deny Iran any capability to quickly dash for a nuclear bomb.

CENTRIFUGE RESEARCH

- Iran is developing new centrifuge models at Natanz.

- Modern machines could enrich uranium faster.

- Iran says it has right to technology for civilian use.

- Interim accord allows Iran to continue existing R&D.

- But powers will likely seek strict limits on R&D.

ARAK

- West fears planned heavy water research reactor could yield plutonium, potential bomb fuel.

- Iran says Arak designed to produce medical isotopes.

- Western experts say the reactor could be changed to ease bomb fears, for example by reducing power or changing fuel.

- Iran has suggested it could modify plant; no details.

IAEA PROBE

- U.N. nuclear watchdog investigating suspicions Iran may have researched how to build an atomic bomb. Tehran denies it.

- Western officials say Iran must address allegations as part of settlement of broader dispute. But unclear exactly how.

SANCTIONS

- Iran wants punitive measures lifted quickly.

- But powers likely to do so only gradually under any deal.

(Reporting by Fredrik Dahl, Justyna Pawlak, Parisa Hafezi and Louis Charbonneau; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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