Iran may agree to supervised nuclear program
President addresses United Nations this weekend

Updated: 4:50 p.m. ET Sept. 16, 2005

VIENNA, Austria - Iran may offer to put its nuclear activities under broader international supervision when its president addresses the U.N. General Assembly this weekend, European officials and diplomats said Friday.

Speaking to The Associated Press a day before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s scheduled speech, the officials were guarded about the chances that Ahmadinejad might announce a new freeze on uranium conversion just weeks after Tehran resumed the practice — and sparked the present crisis over its atomic program.

Divulging some details of a closed meeting Thursday on the sidelines of the U.N. summit in New York, the officials and diplomats said members of the Iranian president’s team told the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany that Tehran’s right to develop and apply the nuclear cycle was not up for debate. Uranium conversion, a precursor to uranium enrichment, is part of that cycle.

All those agreeing to discuss the topic demanded anonymity because of the confidentiality of the meeting.

Reasons for nuclear programs unclear
Iran says it is interested in enrichment only to generate power, but the United States says Tehran wants to create weapons-grade uranium as part of a nuclear arms program — an accusation repeated Friday by the spokesman for the U.S. mission in Vienna.

“Iran has used its nuclear program as a cover and pretext for efforts to acquire nuclear weapons capability,” said Matthew Boland of the mission, which deals with the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran’s nuclear dossier.

Washington has been a key force in trying to marshal enough support at Monday’s board meeting of the Vienna-based IAEA for referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which could consider sanctions. Boland said “the board must live up to its obligations” and ask for council involvement unless Iran stops its “provocative (nuclear) activities.”

Momentum for Security Council action grew after Tehran last month rejected economic and other incentives offered by Britain, France and Germany — negotiating on behalf of the EU — and resumed uranium conversion. The Europeans say Tehran broke its word by unilaterally restarting that activity while still discussing ways to reduce international suspicions about its nuclear agenda.

But the U.S.-European effort for Security Council involvement has run into trouble due to stubborn resistance from council members Russia and China, as well as by India, Pakistan and other key nations.

Diplomats and European officials said the Security Council option formally remained, but an idea was gaining favor of giving Iran a deadline of several weeks to comply with international demands meant to reduce suspicions about its nuclear activities.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also said after the New York meetings with the Iranians that the previous offers “are still on the table.”

“We’re going to listen carefully” to Ahmadinejad’s comments Saturday to the General Assembly, “and make an assessment from there” on what action to pursue at the IAEA board meeting, he said.

Offering nuclear technology to Muslim states
Ahmadinejad said Thursday his country was willing to offer nuclear technology to other Muslim states, Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. At the United Nations for a summit of leaders, Ahmadinejad also repeated promises that Iran would not develop nuclear weapons, the report said.

France has no objection to Iran’s proposal to provide nuclear technology to other Muslim states, as long as it respects the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Foreign Ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau said.

Respecting the international treaty is “paramount,” Simonneau said.

The State Department expressed concern about Ahmadinejad’s proposal.

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