Reuters: Iran has stressed that its decision to freeze sensitive nuclear work is a voluntary move to dispel concerns it is secretly building atomic arms and that it will last only for a
short time. Iran told the United Nations atomic watchdog on Sunday it would suspend uranium enrichment and processing activities as part of a deal with the European Union to avert any U.N. Security Council sanctions. Reuters

TEHRAN - Iran has stressed that its decision to freeze sensitive nuclear work is a voluntary move to dispel concerns it is secretly building atomic arms and that it will last only for a short time.

Iran told the United Nations atomic watchdog on Sunday it would suspend uranium enrichment and processing activities as part of a deal with the European Union to avert any U.N. Security Council sanctions.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, hailed the deal on Monday at a weekly news conference, saying: "These were very important talks and the parties made the best decision.

"Accepting the suspension is a politically motivated move. In the agreement it says it is not a legal obligation for Iran and Iran has voluntarily accepted this," he said.

Iran, which denies U.S. accusations its atomic energy programme is a front for a nuclear weapons bid, has said the suspension will remain in place while it and the European Union discuss a lasting solution to its nuclear case.

The EU -- in talks with Iran led by Britain, Germany and France -- wants the oil-rich country to give up its nuclear fuel cycle activities like uranium enrichment for good.

In return the EU is prepared to offer Iran a range of incentives including help with a civilian nuclear programme and a possible trade deal. But Iran has said it will never give up its enrichment technology.

Asefi stressed that the talks -- and enrichment suspension -- would be brief.

"The talks will be for a short period of time ... and in the agreement it has been emphasised that Iran has the right to develop peaceful nuclear technology," he said.

The talks are due to commence on December 15 and would be handled by separate working groups for political, security, technology and economic issues, Asefi said.

He said a team of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors now in Iran could verify the suspension.

Diplomats say Iran's decision to suspend enrichment should be enough to ensure a relatively favourable report at the IAEA's board meeting on November 25 and avoid referral to the U.N. Security Council which could have placed sanctions on Iran.

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