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. Iran confirms rejection of nuclear compromise
TEHRAN (AFP) Nov 13, 2005
Iran confirmed Sunday it would not accept a compromise on its disputed nuclear programme that involved sensitive uranium enrichment activities being conducted outside the country.

"Enrichment should be carried out on Iranian soil, as other Iranian officials have said before," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asfi told reporters.

That position was spelled out on Saturday by Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation head Gholamreza Aghazadeh after a meeting with Igor Ivanov, the head of Russia's Security Council.

Under a proposal reportedly being floated, Iran would be allowed to carry out an initial step in making nuclear fuel -- converting uranium ore into the uranium hexafluoride gas that is the feedstock for making enriched uranium.

But enrichment itself would be done in Russia under an offer said to be under consideration by the European Union and the United States.

Iran says it only wants to enrich uranium to low levels for atomic reactor fuel and argues such work is a right enshrined by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The enrichment process can be diverted to military purposes, and the United States and European Union fear the clerical regime is merely using an atomic energy drive as a cover for weapons development.

It was still not clear exactly what offer Ivanov had presented to the Iranians and the Russian official insisted that he had come with no specific proposal.

"As far as I know there is no such proposal (on enrichment)," Asefi said, describing Ivanov's visit as "positive".

Asefi also said that calls for Iran to return to a freeze of uranium conversion, a precursor to enrichment, was not discussed either.

Ivanov's visit came ahead of a November 24 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board, which will consider referring Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

Iran triggered the latest standoff in August when it effectively broke off negotiations on a package of incentives for restraining its nuclear plans and resumed conversion activities it had suspended a year ago.

The IAEA has demanded Iran return to a full freeze of enrichment-related work and return to negotiations with Britian, France and Germany. Iran says it is willing to negotiate, but not suspend all of its activities.

Asefi said Iran wanted to see a "balanced approach" to its nuclear programme, and repeated that talks needed to be widened to involve countries other than the so-called EU3.

He also reacted to reports that US intelligence officials have shown IAEA members a stolen Iranian laptop computer containing nuclear designs as proof the country is secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.

The New York Times reported on its website Saturday that during the demonstration, which took place in Vienna in mid-July, officials displayed selections from more than a thousand pages of Iranian computer simulations and accounts of experiments, saying they showed a long effort to design a nuclear warhead.

"This is worthless and naive. We usually don't carry our secrets around in laptops," Asefi laughed when aksed to respond to the report.

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