Associated Press: European countries have rejected an
Iranian offer to suspend its nuclear activities for six months, state-run television reported as China's visiting foreign minister sought to resolve the dispute without formal UN security council involvement.
Associated Press

European countries have rejected an Iranian offer to suspend its nuclear activities for six months, state-run television reported as China's visiting foreign minister sought to resolve the dispute without formal UN security council involvement.

China does not want to see Iran hauled before the council for possible sanctions over its nuclear program, as Washington has threatened, but Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing would not say if China would use its veto to protect Iran.

Li's remarks came as Iranian and European officials met in Paris to continue negotiations aimed at a compromise. State-run television reported the Europeans had rejected an Iranian offer to suspend nuclear activities for six months.

It did not provide any details about the Iranian offer, which likely would have fallen far short of what the US would be willing to accept.

Britain, Germany and France have offered Iran a trade deal and peaceful nuclear technology - including a light-water research reactor - in return for assurances the country will indefinitely suspend uranium enrichment and related activities such as reprocessing uranium and building centrifuges used to enrich it.

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AdvertisementIran has rejected any indefinite suspension, but is under pressure to make a substantial goodwill gesture of its peaceful intentions. If Tehran doesn't give up all uranium enrichment activities before a November 25 meeting of the board of governors of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), most European states were expected to back Washington's call to refer Iran to the security council for possible sanctions.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hossein Mousavian, was quoted on state TV from Paris as saying both sides were showing flexibility, but that agreement had not been reached.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, speaking at a joint press conference with Li, described the Paris talks as "complicated and difficult". He reiterated Iran's insistence any solution recognise Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Li told reporters that before arriving in Tehran, he had spoken by phone with US Secretary Colin Powell as well as top British and Japanese officials about how to "properly resolve" the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

"I told my colleagues that China supports a solution within IAEA. The Iranian government is having a very positive and active cooperation with the agency," he said. "Referral to the UN Security Council will only make the issue more complicated and more difficult to work out."

However, asked if China would veto any security council call for sanctions, Li did not directly respond, saying only: "I don't really know if it will be brought to the security council."

Senior Iranian officials, most recently supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, repeatedly have said Iran has no intention of building nuclear weapons as the US contends.

Tehran says it has obtained technology to master the whole cycle of the nuclear fuel from mining uranium ore to enriching uranium.

Uranium enriched to a low level can be used to produce nuclear fuel, but if enriched further it can be used to make nuclear weapons. Iran is not prohibited from enriching uranium under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but faces growing international pressure to suspend such activities.

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