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Iran nuclear program hangs in the balance

Iranian leaders to decide on nuclear power deal brokered in Vienna.

Iran's International Atomic Energy Agency ambassador Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh briefs the media after a meeting on the Iranian nuclear issue in Vienna with EU, Russian and U.S. diplomats in Vienna's U.N. headquarters on Oct. 21, 2009. The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief said on Wednesday he had given Iran and three world powers a draft text of a deal for approval by Friday to help allay concerns over Tehran's nuclear program. (Herwig Prammer/Reuters)

LONDON, United Kingdom — Twenty-four tense hours remain until Iran reveals whether it will accept or reject an American proposal over its nuclear program even as two new polls show that — six months after electing Barack Obama as U.S. president — more than half of the American public now supports bombarding or invading the Islamic Republic.

The nuclear deal was hammered out between Iranian and American specialists in Vienna, the seat of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and sent to Tehran for ratification. The breakthrough came at the end of a second round of negotiations between Washington and Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Some Western diplomats think that Tehran will continue to be obstructive.

“Iran came to the talks highly resistant to the offer (of rapid reductions in uranium stockpiles),” a Western diplomatic source told the Financial Times. “Its delegation came up with a series of proposals about how it might transfer less of the fuel than the U.S. and France are proposing or about removing it at a later date or keeping it in Iran.”

IAEA chief Mohammad el-Baradei was more optimistic, pointing out that “everyone who participated at the meeting was trying to help, trying to look to the future and not to the past, trying to heal the wounds that existed for many, many years.”

“I very much hope that people see the big picture, see that this agreement could open the way for a complete normalization of relations between Iran and the international community,” said el-Baradei.

Exporting up to 90 percent of its uranium stock to Russia for enrichment and France for conversion into plates suitable for medical use is an essential precondition for a deal. Rejecting the deal would strengthen the position of Western hawks who argue that international sanctions on Iran should be strengthened.

A Russian diplomatic source in Europe told GlobalPost that Moscow had no intention of pressuring its Iranian ally by supporting the U.S.-designed sanctions.

“The deal is mostly symbolic,” said Daryl Press, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth College. “Iran can replace the LEU (nuclear fuel) it is shipping away in three to four months, not the nine to 12 months being described in the media.”

Tehran has shown signs of being willing to compromise in a move that would earn it another 18 months under the terms of the current agreement.