Diplomats in Vienna reported Tehran had agreed in principle to freeze production, testing and assembly of centrifuges in an apparent move to ease pressure ahead of a U.N. watchdog meeting next week. Reuters
By Carol Giacomo, Diplomatic Correspondent
WASHINGTON - A U.S. official reacted skeptically Tuesday to reports of another Iranian agreement to halt sensitive nuclear activities, saying "they didn't adhere to the last one."
Diplomats in Vienna reported Tehran had agreed in principle to freeze production, testing and assembly of centrifuges in an apparent move to ease pressure ahead of a U.N. watchdog meeting next week.
"It's hard to give that a lot of credibility other than they want to get past next week's (International Atomic Energy Agency) meeting. ... Iran promised this several times before. They didn't adhere to the last one," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
This official, and another more senior official who is also involved in non-proliferation issues, both said they were unaware of any deal with Tehran.
"It's very unclear what they (news reports) are talking about," the senior official said through an aide.
Details of the reported deal were not immediately clear and have yet to be finalized.
However, diplomats told Reuters in Vienna that IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei negotiated with Tehran over the weekend and the agreement would include halting production, testing and assembly of centrifuges.
Iran pledged last year to suspend all enrichment-related activities but has since resumed building centrifuges and last week said it intended to process 37 tons of raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride, the feed material for centrifuges.
Washington says Iran's uranium enrichment program is aimed at making material for nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying it is only interested in generating electricity.
The IAEA board of governors is due to meet Monday with the Iranian nuclear issue high on the agenda.
Some Bush administration officials fear an "Iran fatigue" is setting in among other IAEA members who are growing tired of having the issue of Tehran's nuclear ambitions come up every meeting with no final resolution.
The latest IAEA report on Iran's activities, made public last week, provided no conclusive evidence of an arms program, although it said many troubling questions remain unanswered.
The U.S. priority continues to be trying to get the IAEA board to formally find Iran in non-compliance with its Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty obligations and send the issue to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions, U.S. officials said.
But that is a long shot because of opposition from key European nations and Russia.
If they persist in that position, the administration may propose a resolution that would commit the IAEA board to automatically send the Iranian nuclear issue to the security council at its next meeting in November, U.S. officials said. This would give Tehran more time to comply while setting a deadline for stronger IAEA action.