WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top U.S. diplomat suggested on Wednesday the United States may press Iran to agree to dismantle part of its Arak nuclear reactor in a comprehensive agreement to rein in Tehran's atomic program.
Under an interim deal agreed between Iran and six world powers last month, Iran is to shelve fuel production for six months at Arak, an unfinished heavy-water research reactor which Western countries say Tehran could use to produce plutonium for atomic bombs. Iran says the reactor is for medical isotopes.
A comprehensive agreement "includes a lot of dismantling of their infrastructure," Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs, said on PBS Newshour, speaking about a final deal with Iran.
"Because, quite frankly, we're not quite sure what you need a 40-megawatt heavy water reactor - which is what Arak is - for any civilian peaceful purpose."
Sherman was a key negotiator of the landmark nuclear deal agreed in Geneva last month.
The uncompleted research reactor had emerged as one of several big stumbling blocks in the marathon negotiations, in which Iran agreed to restrain its atomic activities for six months in return for limited sanctions relief. The agreement is intended to buy time for talks on a final settlement.
An operational reactor at Arak could be a source of plutonium - one of two materials, along with highly enriched uranium, that can be used for the core of a nuclear weapon.
Iran said it will pursue construction at the Arak reactor during the interim deal, though it would not increase the site's capacity, or produce new nuclear fuel.
The interim agreement from last month says a final deal must "fully resolve concerns related to the reactor at Arak," without specifying whether the site must be fully or partially dismantled.
(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)