avert the threat of United Nations sanctions over its nuclear programme. The provisional agreement, hammered out during two days of talks in Paris, has still to be approved by Teheran's clerical leadership as well as by the European governments. Daily Telegraph
By Robin Gedye, Foreign Affairs Writer
Iran appeared yesterday to have reached a tentative deal with Britain, France and Germany that would avert the threat of United Nations sanctions over its nuclear programme.
The provisional agreement, hammered out during two days of talks in Paris, has still to be approved by Teheran's clerical leadership as well as by the European governments.
If approved, it would defuse the growing crisis over Teheran's ambitious atomic programme, which America and Britain believe serves to mask a secret project to build nuclear weapons.
America has long pressed for the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran to the UN Security Council after a series of violations of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
Under the deal Iran would freeze all nuclear fuel enrichment and reprocessing activities until it has reached a final agreement over economic, technological and security incentives.
As part of a final agreement Teheran would abandon any nuclear activities considered to have the potential to be "weapons-related'', diplomats said.
"The discussions were protracted and very difficult, but we reached provisional agreement on a range of issues designed to build mutual confidence and keep measures in place that both sides can develop," a Foreign Office spokesman said.
Washington wanted to send Iran's case to the Security Council after a previous agreement unravelled in summer.
Iran reneged on a pledge to stop making enrichment centrifuges - the equipment used to make nuclear fuel but which the West fears can also be used to make material for nuclear weapons. It has also defied IAEA appeals not to start producing uranium hexafluoride, the gas fed into enrichment centrifuges.