By NAZILA FATHI
TEHRAN - Iran's foreign minister said Saturday that Iran had every right to keep, for research purposes, some centrifuges that could be used to enrich uranium, an indication that a standoff on the country's nuclear program may not be easily resolved.
"Iran's demand to keep 20 centrifuges is not against its commitments," said the minister, Kamal Kharrazi, the IRNA news agency reported.
In talks in Paris with Britain, Germany and France, Iran agreed on Nov. 15 to freeze all its nuclear activities. But this week, Iran said it wanted to retain 20 centrifuges for research purposes, stunning negotiators. The Paris accord was meant to pave the way for a resolution to be passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear monitoring body, in Vienna, to say that Iran was in compliance.
On Friday, it appeared that negotiators in Vienna had worked out a compromise, under which Iran would turn off the 20 centrifuges but put them under camera surveillance rather than under seal by the I.A.E.A. Mr. Kharrazi's comments seemed to indicate otherwise.
"There is no ban on research activities in the agreement," IRNA quoted him as saying.
Mr. Kharrazi pointed to the resolution drafted in Vienna by the three countries and said there were positions that were "not acceptable by Iran and were contrary to the Paris agreement." He did not specify which ones.
The talks will resume on Monday.
Iran has been walking a tight line in the negotiations, under great international pressure to make concessions on its nuclear program, while hard-liners at home lash out against moves they interpret as weakness on Tehran's part.
An article in the daily Jomhouri Islami on Saturday said that the nuclear agency's opposition to allowing Iran to keep centrifuges for research was aimed at preventing Iran to master the cycle of nuclear fuel production.
"We must not trust the Europeans who have dishonored their pledges with Iran in the past and we should develop our fuel cycle with full capacity," it said.
Last week, President Mohammad Khatami called the Paris agreement a "success," and Hossein Mousavian, a member of the negotiating team, said Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had approved the agreement.
Kaveh Afrasiabi, a political scientist and adviser to the negotiating team said that Iran considered the deal a victory, "because unlike the United States that wants to dismantle Iran's nuclear program, Europe has recognized it and even promised to help Iran become one of the 18 fuel producers."
The United States has accused Iran of trying to make a nuclear bomb and urged Europe to press the issue at the I.A.E.A. to send Iran's case to the Security Council, where it could face economic sanctions.
There have been reports that the nuclear agency was anticipating that Iran would withdraw its request on the 20 centrifuges formally, in writing. But Mr. Kharrazi rejected that idea on Saturday. "We are not talking about a written guarantee," he said, adding that none had been requested.
At least one Western diplomat suggested that Iran might agree to abandon use of the remaining centrifuges verbally but would not do so in writing.
As foreign minister, Mr. Kharrazi outranks some of the negotiators in Vienna, but some of the negotiators report to the National Security Council, which is controlled by the supreme leader.
Opponents of the deal have put pressure on the foreign ministry and the negotiating team, arguing that they have sacrificed the country's right to develop nuclear technology.
Alireza Akbari, a former deputy defense minister, said Saturday that he believed Mr. Kharrazi's comments had been aimed at satisfying opponents of the deal in the country.
"I think the Iranian team will eventually choose its wording and say that it will suspend the 20 centrifuges voluntarily but it will be for a limited time," he said.