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. Iran pledges to suspend uranium enrichment
VIENNA (AFP) Nov 14, 2004
Iran pledged to the United Nations in writing Sunday to fully suspend uranium enrichment, ending a deadlock over its response to Washington's charges that Tehran is secretly developing nuclear weapons.

The UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency on Sunday received an official letter from Iran confirming the suspension, an IAEA spokesman said in Vienna.

A Western diplomat close to the IAEA said Iran agrees in the letter "to implement a full suspension of its uranium enrichment program," the process that makes fuel for nuclear reactors but also the explosive core of atomic bombs.

The IAEA is to mention Iran's agreement in a report to be released Monday to the body's 35-nation board ahead of a board meeting November 25 that will decide whether to send Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, as the United States wants.

The Iranian suspension, which the IAEA will be verifying between now and November 25, should make it harder for Washington to get the matter sent to the Security Council.

The UN watchdog has uncovered some activities deemed suspicious, but has not uncovered a "smoking gun" that proves Iran is seeking weapons of mass destruction.

In Tehran, nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani said Iran had agreed to suspend "nearly all" of its uranium enrichment-related activities as part of a deal with EU negotiators Britain, France and Germany.

A close aide to Rowhani, Hossein Moussavian, said Iran had bowed to demand's that it suspend not only enrichment itself, but also activities related to it -- converting raw uranium into the feed gas for enrichment at a uranium conversion facility in Isfahan and making centrifuges used for enrichment.

Moussavian said the suspension would remain in force while Iran and the European Union negotiated a long-term cooperation accord. He said these negotiations would start on December 15.

"The suspension is valid for the duration of the negotiations," he told reporters. "This is the beginning of the normalisation of Iran's dossier at the IAEA."

Britain, France and Germany had said they would back the US hard line if Iran had failed to agree to full suspension.

A diplomat in Vienna close to the talks said there was "full acceptance between the EU and the Iranians" and that Iran had agreed to a full suspension including "no testing or production in any conversion facility."

The diplomat was referring to what had been a sticking point over Iran agreeing to not even manufacture the feedstock gas that is the first step in the enrichment process.

The diplomat said the problem with conversion had come about since Iran had apparently already begun the process of converting some uranium yellowcake ore into the feedstock gas.

An IAEA team arrived in Iran on Saturday to visit the conversion facility and determine what the problem was, he added.

US President George W. Bush had Friday praised British Prime Minister Tony Blair for working with France and Germany to strike an agreement with Iran.

US officials have told AFP, however, that the most the United States would do on an agreement would be not to oppose it, as endorsing it would be out of the question.

Iran has since October 2003 suspended as a confidence-building measure the actual enrichment of uranium but not support activities such as making the feed gas for enrichment and manufacturing the centrifuges that refine the uranium.

The European Union is ready to offer Iran incentives such as access to nuclear fuel from international sources and even a light-water research reactor.

But the diplomat in Vienna said that none of these incentives were specifically mentioned in a two-page agreement reached with Iran and which obligates Iran to work towards a long-term agreement in meeting international concerns about its nuclear programme.

The incentives are to come after suspension and a long-term agreement while Iran had tried to get the incentives to come soon after it suspends enrichment.

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