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Khatami hints Iran may stop uranium enrichment
( 2003-10-20 08:57) (Agencies)

Iran's President Mohammad Khatami indicated on Sunday Tehran may halt uranium enrichment, which some Western governments say could be used to make atomic bombs, if it is allowed to keep its civilian atomic energy program.

Asked by reporters if Iran was prepared to stop enriching uranium as the United States and several European countries have demanded, Khatami said: "We will do whatever is necessary to solve the problems and in return we're expecting our rights to be preserved which is (the right) to have nuclear technology."

It was the first indication from a top Iranian official that Iran could mothball uranium enrichment facilities which it began building in 1985.

Iranian officials had previously insisted they had every right to continue enriching uranium to use in nuclear reactors.

Asked if Iran was prepared to meet the demands for tougher inspections and a halt to uranium enrichment, Khatami said:

"We will do what is expedient for society and the nation. We have done our best for talks and exchanging views and we hope it will produce a result."

Iranian officials have said the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany will visit Tehran this week to discuss a proposal to resolve Iran's nuclear standoff before a looming October 31 U.N. deadline for Tehran to prove it has no atomic arms ambitions.

The three countries wrote to Tehran a few weeks ago offering Iran the prospect of sharing technology if it stops its nuclear fuel enrichment program and accepts tougher inspections of its nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said on Sunday that Iran has invited the three ministers to visit Tehran for talks on the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which would allow snap inspections of its nuclear sites.

"Given that the German, French and British foreign ministers had in a letter voiced willingness to cooperate with Iran, we proposed initiating a constructive dialogue with Europe," the official IRNA news agency quoted Asefi as saying.

Asefi said the exact date for the ministers' visit had not yet been set but added that "If things go well, the date for the visit of the ministers will be very close."


Last year, President Bush named Iran as a member of the "axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea. Bush went to war with Iraq over weapons of mass destruction earlier this year and is in a diplomatic standoff with North Korea over its weapons programs.

He made Iran a top post-Iraq priority, urging the international community to make clear "we will not tolerate" construction of a nuclear weapon by Iran.

The European Union agreed that force might be needed if diplomacy failed and joined Washington in demanding Tehran accept tougher inspections by the IAEA.

Khatami said on Friday his country had no plans to build nuclear weapons and predicted that it would reach an agreement on its nuclear program with the U.N. atomic watchdog.

Iran and the IAEA began formal talks on tougher inspections on Saturday.

"The IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has given us the necessary assurances that neither the text of the Additional Protocol nor its implementation will cause any worries for Iran," Asefi said.

U.N. inspectors have found enriched uranium, which can be used to make atomic weapons, at two Iranian facilities this year. Iran blames this on contamination from machinery it bought abroad on the black market.

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