Kasra Naji in Tehran
Iran refused yesterday to agree to suspend indefinitely its uranium enrichment activities although it would continue talks with Britain, France and Germany on a package of incentives.
The foreign ministry said in a statement: "Indefinite suspension of nuclear enrichment activities is not acceptable ... and it is not a subject of the talks."
The statement, Iran's first reaction to the proposals put forward during talks in Vienna last week, reflected Tehran's uncompromising attitude in pursuit of its nuclear programme.
The three European countries offered to supply nuclear fuel for Iran's planned power plants and improve trade and political relations to help persuade Iran to stop enriching uranium which they fear could be used for nuclear weapons.
The offer was a last-ditch effort to stop Iran pursuing uranium enrichment before the International Atomic Energy Agency meets on November 25.
If Iran rejects the proposals, the three European countries will support referring Iran to the United Nations security council for possible international sanctions.
"We regard the European proposals as an initial and not the final proposal," said the foreign ministry's statement. The next round of talks will be in Vienna on Wednesday.
Hardliners, who are in the ascendant in Iran's power struggle, have criticised the government for taking part in the talks, which they say aim to deprive Iran of its rights. They have also threatened Iranian diplomats at the talks, saying agreement to the suspension of uranium enrichment "will cost them dearly".
Many Iranians believe sanctions would cause oil prices - already at record levels - to climb further.
Iran says its effort to enrich uranium is aimed at producing fuel for the nuclear power plants it plans to build over the next 20 years and is legitimate under the non-proliferation treaty. The US believes the aim is to produce nuclear weapons.