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Iran nuclear deal 'loophole' may allow off-site reactor workBy REUTERS11/25/2013 19:45Select Language▼Nuclear agreement bans "further advances" at Arak reactor but off-site component work not explicitly banned.A general view of the Arak heavy-water project, 190 km (120 miles) southwest of TehranA general view of the Arak heavy-water project, 190 km (120 miles) southwest of Tehran Photo: REUTERSVIENNA - Sunday's agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program contains an apparent gap that could allow Tehran to build components off-site to install later in a nuclear reactor where it has promised to halt work, experts said.They said any impact of the omission is likely to be small if Iran follows other undertakings in the interim accord, which is designed to restrain Tehran's nuclear program for six months in return for limited sanctions relief.Related: Iran agrees to interim deal completely halting nuclear progressBut the gap, which one diplomat described as a potential "loophole", could provide a test of Iran's intentions, and demonstrates how difficult it will be to reach a final deal to resolve Iran's nuclear standoff with the West once and for all.Iran's uncompleted heavy-water research reactor near the town of Arak emerged as one of the most important issues in marathon negotiations in Geneva last week that ended early on Sunday with a breakthrough deal.Tehran has earlier said it could open the reactor as soon as next year. It says its purpose is only to make medical isotopes, but Western countries say it could also produce plutonium, one of two materials, along with enriched uranium, that can be used to make the fissile core of a nuclear bomb.Much of the final day of negotiations was taken up with the major powers pressing hard for language that would stop Iran from completing the reactor.In the deal, Iran agreed that it will "not make any further advances of its activities" at Arak, language that also covers its two big uranium enrichment plants, Fordow and Natanz.Footnotes hammered out in the final hours of the talks set out a range of activities that would be forbidden at the reactor. For the half year covered by the agreement, Iran is barred from starting the reactor up, bringing fuel or heavy water to it, testing or producing more fuel for it, or installing any remaining components.But no language explicitly prevents it from making components elsewhere, which could then be installed later.Former chief UN nuclear inspector Olli Heinonen, now at Harvard university, said the measures were good, but could have been better: "I would have also included the manufacturing of key components," he told Reuters in an e-mail."NOT FATAL"One Western diplomat, who deals with nuclear issues but is not from one of the six world powers that negotiated the deal with Iran, said he did not see the gap as big.While it was one of several possible "loopholes" in a very complicated agreement, the accord would still achieve its main aims, provided that Iran abides by it."If Iran is committed then none of these loopholes are fatal," said the diplomat, who is based in Vienna, headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency which will play an expanded role monitoring Iran's nuclear program.