Iran says it will meet nuke deadline

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Reuters: Iran says it will meet the European Union’s deadline for suspending uranium enrichment and allay fears it is trying to make a nuclear bomb — the freeze could spare it from U.N. sanctions. Tehran promised the EU last week it would freeze enrichment by November 22, in time for Thursday’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board meeting
which is due decide whether to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. Reuters

TEHRAN – Iran says it will meet the European Union’s deadline for suspending uranium enrichment and allay fears it is trying to make a nuclear bomb — the freeze could spare it from U.N. sanctions.

Tehran promised the EU last week it would freeze enrichment by November 22, in time for Thursday’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board meeting which is due decide whether to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

“We will start suspension of uranium enrichment activities from tomorrow on, as we promised,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference on Sunday.

The United States has led calls for Iran to face sanctions, accusing the oil-rich Islamic Republic of trying to develop atomic weapons behind the veil of a civilian nuclear programme.

Iranian exiled opposition groups said Tehran had increased enrichment before the IAEA meeting, an accusation echoed by U.S. President George W. Bush.

“We’re concerned about reports that show that prior to a certain international meeting, they’re willing to speed up processing of materials that could lead to a nuclear weapon,” Bush told reporters in Chile on Saturday.

Iran strongly denies the charges and says all it wants to do is generate electricity.

The European Union has tread a middle path, promising Iran better trade and ties if it stops uranium enrichment, but threatening to back Washington if Tehran does not.

At a meeting with Bush during an APEC summit in Chile on Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said there had been “a marked improvement with regard to Iran”. Russia is building a nuclear power station in Iran and has resisted U.S. pressure to stop its help.

“Russia and the USA remain major nuclear powers in the world,” Russia’s Itar Tass news agency quoted him as saying. “We have common interests in the sphere of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

Iran also rejected U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s accusation that it was working on ways to deliver an atomic warhead on a missile.

“I believe Powell has understood his remarks were false,” said Iranian nuclear chief Hassan Rohani. “Such claims are totally baseless.”

But Powell said he stood by the charge. “I stick with it,” he told reporters travelling with him to the Middle East.

Tehran has been developing a medium-range ballistic missile experts say would be able to hit arch-foe Israel.