Iran welcomes atomic cooperation idea, will not yield

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TEHRAN, Nov 3 (Reuters) Iran welcomes proposals to work with other countries to enrich uranium but will not accept an offer that requires Tehran to halt its sensitive atomic work, its deputy chief nuclear negotiator said today.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said this week US-allied Gulf states were willing to set up a body to provide enriched uranium to Iran to defuse Tehran's standoff with the West.

An Iranian official said yesterday Tehran would be willing to join such a body. But Tehran has in the past insisted it would not stop uranium enrichment, the process that most worries the West because it has civilian and military uses.

''We welcome proposals for participating in joint enrichment projects with other countries but if the condition is stopping enrichment in Iran, it will not be acceptable,'' Javad Vaeedi, Iran's deputy chief atomic negotiator, said.

''Bringing up such ideas is fine as long as they are not contradictory to obtaining Iran's rights,'' he said in comments carried by the official IRNA news agency.

Iran says it wants to master nuclear technology so it can make fuel for nuclear power plants and says it cannot rely on foreign suppliers to meet its needs. The West says Iran wants to build atomic bombs under cover of a civilian programme.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries -- Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates -- share Western concerns about Iran's nuclear energy programme.

Under the proposal made by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, the consortium would distribute enriched uranium for all users in the West Asia according to need and ensure it is not used for atomic weapons.

Prince Saud had said Iran was considering the offer, which envisages building a plant in a neutral country such as Switzerland.

REUTERS AM MSJ RAI2105

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