Reuters: Iran said on Friday it might extend its partial freeze of uranium enrichment in order to ease Western fears about its nuclear ambitions but a U.S. official dismissed this as a ploy to fend off tough U.N. action.
"I don't reject the possibility ... of continuing the suspension for an additional one or two months, but this will be decided by the policymakers," Hossein Mousavian, Iran's chief delegate to
the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told Reuters. Reuters

By Louis Charbonneau

VIENNA - Iran said on Friday it might extend its partial freeze of uranium enrichment in order to ease Western fears about its nuclear ambitions but a U.S. official dismissed this as a ploy to fend off tough U.N. action.

"I don't reject the possibility ... of continuing the suspension for an additional one or two months, but this will be decided by the policymakers," Hossein Mousavian, Iran's chief delegate to the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told Reuters.

Mousavian, who earlier this week said Tehran would soon begin enriching uranium, was reacting to news that the United States had compromised with France, Britain and Germany on a toughly-worded IAEA resolution that calls for an immediate halt to Iran's uranium enrichment program.

U.S. Under Secretary of State John Bolton, who accuses Iran of developing atomic weapons, said it was an obvious attempt to fend off a possible report to the U.N. Security Council in November, which could lead to economic sanctions.

"That is so transparent I do not believe anyone will fall for it," Bolton said in a statement.

Meanwhile, diplomats from the European Union's "big three" powers were meeting with officials from Russia, China and the non-aligned countries to get them to accept the draft resolution text, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

"It's a text that all six countries can live with," a Western diplomat told Reuters, referring to earlier talks between the EU trio, the United States, Canada and Australia on Iran's nuclear program, which Washington says is a cover for developing atomic weapons.

Mousavian did not share the Western diplomat's enthusiasm and said Tehran would still like some changes to the draft that would guarantee Iran's right to produce nuclear fuel.

FEARS ABOUT IRAN'S PLANS

Iran's program for uranium enrichment is the most controversial part of Tehran's atomic plans, which it says are limited to electricity generation. The EU trio have been negotiating with Iran since last year to persuade the Islamic republic to abandon its nuclear fuel plans.

After agreeing to a comprehensive suspension of the program for the duration of the IAEA's investigation of allegations that Tehran has a covert nuclear weapons program, Iran gradually resumed activities connected with enrichment, though stopped short of producing any atomic fuel.

This has infuriated the Europeans and brought them closer to the U.S. hardline views of Iran, diplomats say.

Mousavian indicated that Iran was not ready to expand the number of activities covered in the suspension.

"The key element of enrichment, the enrichment of uranium, is already suspended," Mousavian said.

The IAEA has found no clear evidence to support the U.S. view that Tehran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, though the agency is not convinced the program is peaceful, as Tehran insists.

The preliminary agreement on a draft text, which still has to be approved by the rest of the 35 nations on the governing board of the IAEA, ended nearly a week of tortuous discussions on the text, which diplomats said would set the stage for a November showdown over Iran's nuclear program.

"We would really welcome a final decision of the IAEA board of governors at the November meeting," Mousavian said, adding that Iran wanted the IAEA inspection process to be wrapped up.

"The country will deal with how to respond to the suspension (demand) in the next few days," he said.