- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2007

VIENNA, Austria (AP) — Iran offered yesterday to clear up suspicions about its disputed nuclear activities if the U.N. Security Council ends its “interference,” in an apparent attempt to head off new sanctions for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment.

Tehran presented the overture, contained in a restricted document made available to the Associated Press, as the five permanent council members deliberate on a resolution to tighten up the sanctions against Iran for its nuclear defiance.

The document — a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — said Iran was ready to “negotiate … for the resolution of outstanding issues with the IAEA … without the interference of the United Nations Security Council.”

Iran has made other such offers, but renewing it now seemed to be linked to the moves in New York, even though diplomats involved in working on a draft resolution cautioned that any agreement was some time off.

Signed by Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran’s chief representative to the IAEA, the letter also said Tehran was ready to “enter a constructive … negotiation” meant to resolve the impasse over its refusal to mothball its enrichment program.

Earlier yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki denied that his country has slowed its nuclear program, contradicting remarks by IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei that Tehran appeared to have paused enrichment. Mr. Mottaki said enrichment was continuing unabated.

“Iran’s legitimate activities with the aim of producing fuel … are continuing their natural trend,” Mr. Mottaki said during a press conference. “There has been no change in that course.”

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