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. Iran's uranium enrichment slows down: report
NEW YORK, May 28 (AFP) May 29, 2006
Iran appears to have slowed its drive to produce nuclear fuel after boasting that it had joined the "nuclear club" by successfully enriching uranium on an industrial scale and portraying its action as irreversible, The New York Times reported in its Monday edition.

Citing unnamed European diplomats who have reviewed reports from inspectors inside the country, the newspaper said the diplomats say the slowdown may be part of a deliberate Iranian strategy to lower the temperature of its standoff with the West and perhaps to create an opening for Washington to join the negotiations directly.

In discussions with White House and State Department officials in recent days, Europeans have described the inspectors' findings, clearly hoping to influence a debate within the Bush administration over whether to change strategy and engage directly with Iran, the report said.

But hardliners in the administration say they are unconvinced and think any slowdown may be merely a tactical ploy by the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, The Times said.

"It could simply mean we're not looking in the right places," the paper quotes one senior official as saying.

Diplomats say Iranian engineers stopped pouring a raw form of uranium, called UF6, into arrays of centrifuges after just 12 days, even as the nation erupted in celebrations of the enrichment feat, The Times said.

The reports, which have now been widely circulated, say the Iranians kept the empty centrifuges spinning, as is standard practice because slowing the delicate machines can cause them to wobble and crash, the report said.

Nuclear experts caution, however, that the slowdown may mean that Iran has run into technical obstacles on its nuclear road, the paper noted.

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