ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- World powers offered broader concessions than ever to Iran in attempts yesterday to keep alive diplomatic channels that seek to rein in the Islamic Republic's nuclear program and prevent it from building an atomic weapon.
The offer was hailed by Saeed Jalili, Iran's top official at the diplomatic talks, who said it represented a "turning point" by world powers to compromise on Tehran's uranium enrichment program after years of delicate negotiations that nearly dissolved last June.
The proposal allows Iran to keep a limited amount of highly enriched uranium -- but not make any more -- stops short of demanding the full shutdown of an underground nuclear facility, and offers to remove some trade sanctions that have hurt Iran's economy.
Still, a senior U.S. official said, crippling sanctions on Iran's oil and financial industries would remain in place as negotiations continue.
The latest offer marks a small but significant shift from earlier, harder-line proposals that prompted Iran to dig in its heels amid fears that an arms race in neighboring states could sow yet more instability in the already turbulent Mideast.
The offer also is expected to force Iran to respond with a reasonable plan of its own -- or be seen as a recalcitrant negotiator unwilling to compromise. -- AP