Iran to consider halt of 20% uranium enrichment

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Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Sunday that Iran will consider halt of 20 percent uranium enrichment if the West recognizes its "civilian" nuclear program, according to the official IRNA news agency reported.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, visits the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. [Xinhua]

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, visits the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. [Xinhua] 

"If the Western governments acknowledge the civilian nature of Iranian nuclear program and ask for halting the 20 percent (nuclear) enrichment, Iran will consider their request," the report quoted Mehmanparast as saying.

Mehmanparast said that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the basis for Iran's nuclear talks with the UN Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany, IRNA reported.

"Iran has been a signatory to NPT and signed the treaty in the early stages of its emergence," Mehmanparast was quoted as saying when speaking about Iran's talks with the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany, known as P5+1.

The spokesman said that the Islamic republic never wants to militarize its national nuclear program and regards uranium enrichment for civilian use as its legitimate rights.

However, a senior Iranian cleric said on Friday that the Islamic republic would not give up its right to producing enriched uranium to a purity level of 20 percent.

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, Tehran's Friday prayer's leader, made the remarks in a sermon at the University of Tehran one day after Iran and the six world powers held a new round of talks in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

The Baghdad talks were concluded Thursday with a plan to hold another round of talks in Moscow on June 18-19.

On Sunday, a senior Iranian lawmaker said the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 to hold more talks in Moscow is a step forward, Iran's Press TV reported.

"That the negotiations are to be continued in Moscow simply means talks have been positive," Alaeddin Boroujerdi was quoted as saying.

"If the talks had faced a serious and fundamental problem, they would have reached an impasse and stalled," he said.

Boroujerdi expressed hope that the upcoming round of talks would lead to a "logical agreement" that satisfies both parties, according to the report.

On Sunday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported that Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili has expressed pleasure in his talks with the representatives of the P5+1 in Baghdad, and has said the negotiations modified the world powers' stances.

"Naturally, the Baghdad negotiations were highly effective in modifying the positions of the P5+1," Jalili told Fars.

As for the recent report of UN nuclear watchdog on Iran's nuclear program, Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali-Asghar Soltanieh criticized on Saturday the Western media "attempts to politicize a normal technical issue " about Tehran's "nuclear energy program."

Soltanieh criticized Western media hype and said "as mentioned in the IAEA report, the issue is a normal technical subject that is being investigated by experts."

According to a report obtained by media on Friday, the IAEA said in its latest report on Iranian nuclear issue that its inspectors have detected traces of up to 27-percent-purity enriched uranium in the country's Fordow nuclear fuel enrichment plant.

According to the report, Iran indicated that the production of such particles "above the target value" may happen for technical reasons beyond the operator's control.

Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Fereidoon Abbasi said Saturday that the insistence of the IAEA on visiting Iran's military site of Parchin is due to the pressure mounted by "certain countries."

Iran has not been convinced and "no documents or reason has been presented to us" to persuade us to arrange a visit to Parchin military site, Abbasi was quoted as saying.

Last week, Yukiya Amano, Director General of the IAEA, said that an agreement on probing suspected work of Iran's controversial nuclear program was expected to be signed soon.

"There was an important development on the structured approach document on which we have been working since January," Amano told reporters at Vienna's airport after returning from his one-day trip to Tehran where he held talks with Saeed Jalili.

Amano said the decision was made to reach agreement on the mechanics of giving the IAEA access to sites, scientists and documents it hopes to inspect to address international concerns over the country's nuclear activities.

One priority issue for the IAEA in recent talks with Iran is the agency's demand for access to Iran's Parchin military site southeast of Tehran.

Media said the IAEA has received reports that Iran had tested explosives which could be used to set off a nuclear charge.

Iran denied such reports and insisted that access to Parchin would only be granted if Iran and the IAEA agree on certain conditions and steps.

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