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. Iran ready for concession on enrichment: UN nuclear chief
WASHINGTON, May 24 (AFP) May 24, 2006
Iran is ready to give up uranium enrichment on its territory for several years as part of a deal to allay Western fears over its nuclear program, the chief UN nuclear watchdog said here Wednesday.

But Mohamed ElBaradei, who met in Vienna last week with Iran's top nuclear negotiator, said the question of Tehran's sensitive atomic research activities was still under discussion.

ElBaradei made his remarks to reporters after conferring here with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Western efforts to rein in Iran's suspected bid to develop a nuclear bomb.

Iran has publicly insisted on its right to enrich uranium on its soil. Yet ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), suggested Tehran's position was more flexible.

"The Iranians, as far as I know, agreed in principle that for a number of years (uranium) enrichment should be part of an international consortium outside of Iran," he said.

He said the Iranians told him that once negotiations resumed on their nuclear program, they were ready to apply the "additional protocol" to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty aimed at tightening inspections.

"There is still this issue of Iran doing R and D (research and development) with regards to enrichment and that's an issue still being discussed," ElBaradei said.

ElBaradei, who sat down in Vienna last week with senior Iranian official Ali Larijani, said he briefed Rice on Tehran's position "which is rather different than the US point of view."

The IAEA chief spoke as senior officials of six world powers met in London to hammer out a new carrot-and-stick approach to persuade Iran to abandon any attempt to make nuclear arms.

The strategy would combine technology, economic and other incentives for Iran with the threat of an arms embargo and other sanctions if the Islamic republic defied a UN injunction to halt enrichment.

ElBaradei has called for more direct US involvement in the discussions with Iran, which so far have been led by US allies Britain, France and Germany, but said it was up to Washington what role it chooses to take.

He did, however, reiterate his call for the Americans to take part in an effort to provide Iran with security guarantees as part of an eventual deal.

"At a certain point, if the negotiations were to move in the right direction, particularly when the discussion of security issues were to start, I would hope that the US will be able to join that," ElBaradei said.

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