Official Proposals on the Iranian Nuclear Issue, 2003-2013

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director of Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, (JCPOA), there were several diplomatic proposals to address Iran’s nuclear program, several of which are discussed in detail below.

For a full account, see: Timeline of Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran.

Tehran devised a number of these proposals between 2003 and 2005, some of which included provisions to initially limit operations at its key nuclear facilities and implement transparency measures for its nuclear activities. 

France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (the EU3) also offered Iran several proposals to resolve the nuclear issue during negotiations with Iran in 2004 and 2005. China, Russia, and the United States joined the three European countries in 2006 to offer “P5+1” proposals to Iran.

Below is a list of key proposals from 2003-2013.


According to Tim Guldimann, former Swiss ambassador to Tehran, Iran issued a proposal to the United States in May 2003 calling for negotiations on a variety of contentious issues between the two countries. The document listed a number of agenda items that the two countries would negotiate and proposed the creation of three parallel working groups to carry out negotiations on disarmament, regional security, and economic cooperation. Key among the agenda items were:

  • Relief of all U.S. sanctions on Iran
  • Cooperation to stabilize Iraq
  • Full transparency over Iran’s nuclear program, including the Additional Protocol
  • Cooperation against terrorist organizations, particularly the Mujahedin-e Khalq and al-Qaeda
  • Iran’s acceptance of the Arab League’s 2002 “land for peace” declaration on Israel/Palestine
  • Iran’s full access to peaceful nuclear technology, as well as chemical and bio-technology

The Bush administration dismissed the proposal in favor of placing additional pressure on Iran.


Several months later, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom agreed to discuss with Iran a range of nuclear, security, and economic issues as long as Tehran suspended work on its uranium enrichment program and cooperated fully with an investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). However, that agreement unraveled the following year when Tehran continued work on uranium conversion, the precursor to enrichment. Iran then agreed with the EU3 in November 2004 to implement a more stringent suspension. Negotiations between the two sides began shortly afterward.

Iran presented four proposals during the course of these negotiations. In addition to Iran’s nuclear program, the proposals covered subjects such as Tehran’s support for terrorist organizations, regional security issues, and economic cooperation.


January 17, 2005


This Iranian proposal to the EU3/Iran Political and Security Working Group outlined commitments on both sides in general terms, including:

  • An Iranian commitment not to pursue weapons of mass destruction
  • A rejection of any attacks, threats of attack, or sabotage of Iran’s nuclear facilities
  • Cooperation on combating terrorism, including intensifying the exchange of information and the denial of safe havens
  • Regional security cooperation, including on Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Cooperation on strategic trade controls and the EU removal of restrictions on transfers of conventional arms and dual use goods to Iran

March 23, 2005

The Iranian proposal to the EU3/Iran steering committee in March provided greater detail into the “objective guarantees” Iran was willing to discuss regarding its nuclear program, including:

  • Iran’s adoption of the IAEA Additional Protocol and continuous on-site inspections at key facilities
  • Limiting the expansion of Iran’s enrichment program and a policy declaration of no reprocessing
  • Immediately converting all enriched uranium to fuel rods
  • An EU declaration recognizing Iran as a major source of energy for Europe
  • Iran’s guaranteed access to advanced nuclear technology along with contracts for the construction of nuclear plants in Iran by the EU
  • Normalizing Iran’s status under G8 export controls

April 29, 2005

In April Iran’s proposal repeated some of the items in the March proposal, but focused more on short-term confidence-building measures than long term resolutions. Its key terms included:

  • Iran’s adoption of the IAEA Additional Protocol
  • A policy declaration of no reprocessing by Iran
  • Continued enrichment suspension for six months
  • Establishment of joint task forces on counter-terrorism and export control
  • An EU declaration recognizing Iran as a major source of energy for Europe

July 18, 2005

Hassan Rouhani, then-Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, released a message to France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In his statement Rouhani proposes:

  • An agreement on initial limitations on uranium enrichment at Natanz
  • Negotiations for the full-scale operation of Natanz
  • Arrangements to import material for uranium conversion and the export of UF6
  • Negotiation of an “optimized” IAEA monitoring mechanism for Natanz

August 2005

The three European countries presented their own comprehensive proposal for a long-term agreement, outlining the following:

  • Arrangements for the assured supply of low enriched uranium for any light water reactors constructed in Iran
  • Establishing a buffer store of nuclear fuel located in a third country
  • A commitment by Iran not to pursue fuel cycle technologies, reviewable after 10 years
  • A legally binding commitment by Iran not to withdraw from the NPT and Iran’s adoption of the Additional Protocol
  • Arrangements for Iran to return spent nuclear fuel to supplier countries
  • EU recognition of Iran as a long-term source of fossil fuel energy
  • EU-Iran cooperation in a variety of political-security areas, including Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorism, and drug trafficking

Iran rejected that proposal days later, claiming that it did not recognize Iran’s right to enrichment. Tehran proceeded with uranium conversion, breaking the suspension agreement with the EU3 and ending negotiations.

October 2005

In order to support Iran’s talks with the EU, Russia proposed to Iran in October 2005 that Tehran share ownership of a uranium-enrichment plant located in Russia. Following months of discussions on that proposal, Iran ultimately rejected it in March 2006.


June 2006

China, Russia, and the United States joined the three EU3 countries in June 2006 to offer another proposal for comprehensive negotiations with Iran. The proposal mirrored some of the previous offers for negotiations and included the following key points:

  • Iran’s suspension of enrichment-related and reprocessing activities
  • The establishment of a mechanism to review this moratorium
  • Iran’s resumption of the Additional Protocol
  • The provision of state-of-the-art light water reactors to Iran through joint projects, along with nuclear fuel guarantees and a 5-year buffer stock of fuel
  • Suspension of the discussion of Iran’s nuclear program in the UN Security Council
  • Cooperation on civil aviation, telecommunications, high-technology, and agriculture, and other areas, between the United States, EU, and Iran

August 2006

Tehran responded to this proposal in August 2006. It rejected the terms of the proposal due to its requirement that Iran suspend its enrichment-related activities, but noted that the proposal contained “useful foundations and capacities for comprehensive and long-term cooperation between the two sides.” It did not, however, identify what those useful foundations were.


March 2008

In March 2008, the P5+1 agreed to “repackage” the June 2006 proposal in order to specify some of the benefits that they would offer Iran as part of a long-term agreement on its nuclear program and to better demonstrate the nature of those benefits to the Iranian public. This agreement to revise the 2006 proposal coincided with the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1803, the third UN sanctions resolution on Iran.

Before that package was formally submitted to Iran, however, Tehran issued its own proposal to the six-country group. While the Iranian proposal also called for comprehensive negotiations leading to cooperation on nuclear energy, and political and economic concerns, it offered very few details regarding the steps Iran would take to resolve concerns related to its nuclear program. Some of its key provisions were:

  • “Establishing enrichment and nuclear fuel production consortiums in different parts of the world-including Iran”
  • Improved IAEA supervision “in different states”
  • Cooperation on nuclear safety and physical protection
  • Cooperation on export controls
  • Cooperation on regional security and global economic issues

June 2008

The P5+1 group presented their revised package during a June 2008 meeting in Tehran which included participants from five of the six countries, excluding the United States. During the meeting, the six-countries relayed an understanding that preliminary talks could begin under a six-week “freeze-for-freeze” period in which Iran would halt the expansion of its enrichment program while the six countries would agree not to pursue additional sanctions against Tehran. The proposal also entailed:

  • The 2006 package remains on the table
  • Consideration of nuclear energy R&D and treatment of Iran’s nuclear program as any other NPT non-nuclear-weapons state once confidence is restored
  • Technological and financial assistance for Iran’s nuclear energy program
  • Reaffirmation of the UN Charter obligation to refrain from the use and threat of use of force in a manner inconsistent with the Charter
  • Cooperation on Afghanistan, including drug-trafficking, refugee return, reconstruction, and border controls
  • Steps towards normalizing economic and trade relations, including support for WTO membership for Iran
  • Further details on the prospect for cooperation on agriculture, the environment and infrastructure, civil aviation, and social development and humanitarian issues

July 2008

Representatives of the six-country group, including the United States for the first time, followed up the June meeting with a meeting in July 2008 in Geneva. At the meeting, Iran issued a non-paper proposing a process for negotiations, highlighting that such discussions would be “based on the commonalities of the two packages” issued by Iran and the P5+1 group in May and June. Both the P5+1 and Iranian proposals called for political, economic, and security cooperation but the Iranian proposal did not address steps that Tehran would take in regard to its nuclear program. The Geneva discussions were inconclusive.


April 2009

Following the election of U.S. President Barack Obama, who sought to abandon the previous U.S. policy requiring Iran to fulfill UN Security Council demands to suspend nuclear fuel cycle activities prior to negotiations, the P5+1 sought to renew their negotiations with Iran. They issued a statement in April 2009 in which the other five countries welcomed “the new direction of U.S. policy towards Iran,” formally inviting Iran to talks once again. Iran did not respond to that invitation until that September, when Tehran issued a revised proposal. Although that proposal repeated several of the provisions of the one Iran issued in 2008, it did not include a section on the nuclear issue. Instead, the proposal covered the following:

  • Cooperation to address terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime, and piracy
  • UN and Security Council reform
  • The codification of rights for the use of space
  • Promoting a “rule-based” and “equitable” IAEA oversight function
  • Promoting NPT universality and WMD nonproliferation

June 2009

Taheran Research Reactor "Fuel Swap" Proposal

In June 2009, Iran informed the IAEA that it was seeking assistance to refuel its Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), a U.S.-supplied 5 megawatt research reactor that produces medical isotopes. Following Iran’s entreaty, the United States proposed that, in return for a supply of 120 kilograms of fuel for the TRR, Iran ship out an equivalent amount of uranium enriched to 4%, totaling about 1,200 kilograms. The 1,200 kilograms accounted for roughly 80% of Iran’s LEU stockpile at that time, a percentage that diminished as Iran continued to produce LEU.

October 2009

At an initial meeting between the United States, France, Russia, Iran, and the IAEA on October 1, 2009, Iranian officials agreed “in principle” to the exchange.

  • Iran exports 1,200 kilograms of LEU in a single batch before the end of the 2009
  • Russia further enriches Iran’s LEU to about 20%, a process producing about 120 kilograms of 20%-enriched uranium for the TRR fuel rods
  • France manufactures the TRR fuel rods for delivery about one year after the conclusion of the agreement, prior to the depletion of the current TRR fuel supply
  • The United States works with the IAEA to improve safety and control implementation at the TRR

Following reservations expressed by Iran about the terms of the deal, the P5+1 indicated their readiness to take some steps to facilitate the arrangement:

  • A political statement of support by the six countries to guarantee that the TRR fuel would be delivered to Iran
  • Financing for the movement of LEU and fuel
  • An option for the IAEA to hold Iran’s LEU in escrow in a third country until the TRR fuel is delivered

In the months following the initial agreement of the TRR proposal October 1, Iran delayed giving the IAEA and the P5+1 a definitive response to the proposal, with many prominent Iranian politicians voicing their opposition to the arrangement, motivated at least in part by their opposition to President Ahmadinejad. Iranian officials publicly suggested alterations to the fuel swap proposal, including: staggering the export of Iran’s LEU over the course of a year or transporting 400 kilograms of LEU to Iran’s Kish Island to exchange for TRR fuel. These proposals, however, undermined or eliminated the confidence-building nature of the export of the bulk of Iran’s LEU. Tehran began to increase the enrichment level of some of its LEU to 20% in February 2010, ostensibly for TRR fuel.


Brazil, Turkey, Iran Tehran Declaration

Brazil and Turkey carried out a diplomatic initiative in the spring of 2010 to broker the TRR fuel swap with Iran. In an April 20 letter to the leaders of the two countries, President Obama said Iran’s agreement to export 1,200 kilograms of LEU “would build confidence and reduce regional tensions by substantially reducing Iran’s LEU stockpile.” The initiative resulted in the May 17 Tehran Declaration agreed between Presidents Lula da Silva, Erdogan, and Ahmadinejad.

  • The three countries “recall the right of all State Parties, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy (as well as nuclear fuel cycle including enrichment activities)”
  • Iran transfers 1,200 kilograms of LEU to be held in escrow in Turkey within one month
  • Pending their approval of the Tehran Declaration, the IAEA, France, Russia, and the United States (the Vienna Group) would agree to provide 120 kilograms of 20%-enriched uranium fuel to Iran within one year
  • If the terms were not filled by the Vienna Group, Turkey would transfer the LEU back to Iran (which maintains legal possession of the material)

France, Russia, and the United States rejected the Tehran Declaration on a number of grounds identified in a June 9 letter to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. The key critique was that the declaration did not address Iran’s production of 20%-enriched uranium and Iran’s accumulation of a larger amount of LEU.

Russian Step-by-Step Proposal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov first publicly proposed a “road map” to implement the P5+1’s proposed incentives package July 12, 2011 during a speech in Washington. Its key elements were described by former Iranian deputy nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian as follows.

Step 1

  • Iran limits enrichment to Natanz, does not install any additional centrifuges, and halts the production of advanced centrifuges.
  • The P5+1 suspends some UN sanctions, including financial sanctions and ship inspections.

Step 2

  • Iran agrees to provide early design information to the IAEA under Code 3.1, caps its enrichment level at 5%, and allows greater IAEA monitoring over its centrifuges.
  • The P5+1 suspends most UN sanctions and gradually lifts unilateral sanctions.

Step 3

  • Iran implements the IAEA Additional Protocol.
  • The P5+1 suspends all UN sanctions in a phased manner.

Step 4

  • Iran suspends all enrichment-related activities for 3 months.
  • The P5+1 lifts all sanctions and begins to implement the group’s proposed incentives.

Although U.S. officials said that Washington would study the proposal, and held meetings with Moscow regarding the plan, and Iran publicly welcomed the proposal, it ultimately did not gain traction.


In April 2012, the P5+1 and Iran renewed diplomatic negotiations in Istanbul. Two more rounds of talks were held May 23-24 in Baghdad, and June 18-19 in Moscow. The negotiators decided in Istanbul to adopt a step-by-step process with reciprocal actions, in order to create momentum towards a long-term solution. Two proposals were discussed in the negotiations, one by the P5+1 and another from the Iranians. Both sides agreed to expert-level talks, which took place in Istanbul on July 3, to discuss the technical aspects of each proposal. 

    Iranian 5 Step Proposal

    Step 1 - Guidelines

    • Iran emphasizes commitments under the NPT and its opposition to nuclear weapons based on the Supreme Leader's fatwa.
    • P5+1 recognizes and openly announces Iran’s nuclear rights, particularly its enrichment activities, based on NPT Article IV.

    Step 2 - Transparency Measures

    • Iran continues broad cooperation with IAEA and will transparently cooperate with the IAEA on “possible military dimensions.”
    • P5+1 will end unilateral and multilateral sanctions against Iran outside of the UNSC resolutions.

    Step 3 - Confidence Building Steps

    • Beyond continuous IAEA monitoring of enrichment activities for Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) fuel, Iran will cooperate with P5+1 to provide enriched fuel needed for TRR.
    • P5+1 will terminate the UN sanctions and remove Iran’s nuclear file from UNSC agenda.

    Step 4 - Strengthening Cooperation on Mutual Interests

    • Parties will start and boost cooperation on: designing and building nuclear power plants and research reactors (Iran’s priorities);
    • And light water research reactors, nuclear safety and security, nuclear fusion (P5+1 priorities).

    Step 5 - Strengthening Joint Cooperation

    • Parties will start cooperating on: regional issues, especially Syria and Bahrain (Iran’s priorities);
    • And combating piracy and countering narcotics activities (P5+1 priorities).

        P5+1 Proposal

        Iranian actions:

        • Iran halts all 20 percent enrichment activities.
        • Iran transfers all 20 percent enriched uranium to a third country under IAEA custody.
        • Iran shuts down the Fordow facility.

        P5+1 Actions:

        • P5+1 will provide fuel assemblies for the Tehran Research Reactor.
        • P5+1 will support IAEA technical cooperation to modernize and maintain the safety of the TRR.
        • P5+1 could review the IAEA technical cooperation projects and recommend to the IAEA Board restarting some of them.
        • P5+1 has put together a detailed package to provide medical isotopes for cancer patients in Iran.
        • The United States is prepared to permit safety-related inspection and repair in Iran for Iranian commercial aircraft and provide spare parts.
        • The P5+1 will cooperate in acquiring a light water research reactor to produce medical isotopes.


          April 2013

          Iran and the P5+1 held talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan April 5-6. The two sides had resumed negotiations in Almaty in February 2013 after a nine-month interval. Each side brought a proposal to the April talks, but failed to reach consensus on a way forward and no further meetings were scheduled.

          Iran’s proposal on day 1 of the April Almaty talks was similar to the five-step proposal Tehran brought to the negotiations in 2012. However, after the P5+1 expressed dissatisfaction with this proposal, which it viewed as a step backward, Iran revised its proposal for the second day of talks.

            Iranian Proposal

            Iranian Actions

            • Iran freezes centrifuge installation at Fordow.
            • Iran continues talks with the IAEA.
            • Iran continues converting 20 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride to uranium oxide.
            • Iran suspends enrichment of uranium to 20 percent.

            P5+1 Actions

            • The P5+1 lifts all sanctions against Iran.
            • The P5+1 recognizes Iran's nuclear rights.

                The P5+1 proposal was based on the proposal from the 2012 negotiations. The 2013 proposal, however, left open the possibility of resuming activities at Fordow, allowed Iran to keep part of its stockpile or uranium enriched to 20 percent, and provided some sanctions relief.

                  P5+1 Proposal

                  Iranian actions:

                  • Iran halts all 20 percent enrichment activities.
                  • Iran transfers part of its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium to a third country under IAEA custody.
                  • Iran suspends all operations at the Fordow facility.
                  • Iran provides the IAEA with information to address the outstanding allegations of possible military activities, commits to the additional protocol and the modified version of the subsidiary arrangement to Iran’s safeguards agreement, known as Code 3.1.

                  P5+1 Actions:

                  • P5+1 will provide fuel assemblies for the Tehran Research Reactor.
                  • P5+1 will support IAEA technical cooperation to modernize and maintain the safety of the TRR.
                  • P5+1 could review the IAEA technical cooperation projects and recommend to the IAEA Board restarting some of them.
                  • P5+1 has put together a detailed package to provide medical isotopes for cancer patients in Iran.
                  • The United States is prepared to permit safety-related inspection and repair in Iran for Iranian commercial aircraft and provide spare parts.
                  • The P5+1 will cooperate in acquiring a light water research reactor to produce medical isotopes.
                  • The P5+1 will provide sanctions relief on sales of precious metals and petrochemicals.
                  • The P5+1 will not impose any new proliferation related sanctions on Iran.

                    October 2013

                    Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 resumed in Geneva on October 15-16. Iran was represented by its new negotiating team, headed by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

                    Iran presented a new proposal during the talks, which outlined the broad framework for a comprehensive end-state agreement and specific steps for each side to take in a first-phase agreement. On November 24, Foreign Minister Zarif and Catherine Ashton, head of the P5+1 negotiating team, signed the proposal, known as the Joint Plan of Action. For more information, see: Implementation of the Joint Plan of Action at a Glance. The Joint Plan of Action was in place from January 20, 2014 until it was replaced by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, (JCPOA), known colloquially as the Iran nuclear deal. For more information, see The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) at a Glance.