Iran says Russian atomic deal no longer an option

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TEHRAN, Mar 12 (Reuters) Iran said today it was no longer considering a Russian compromise deal intended to defuse an international dispute over whether Tehran is seeking to build an atomic bomb.

Russia had proposed that it make nuclear fuel on Iran's behalf in order to ensure uranium was enriched only to the low level needed for power stations and not to the higher weapons-grade needed for warheads.

However, Iran was unwilling to surrender its right to enrich uranium on its own soil.

The failure of the Russian compromise helped send Iran's case to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Tehran was not considering reprising the Russian plan.

''Now the situation has changed, the Russian proposal is not on the agenda,'' he told reporters at a conference on energy and security in Tehran.

EU diplomats had initially been concerned Russia would shy away from taking a firm line with Iran because of its energy interests in the Islamic Republic.

However, they said Russia's delegation at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, which reported Iran to the Security Council, showed little inclination to defend Tehran after the failure of the compromise deal.

''Unfortunately, what happened in Vienna proved the prediction that the meeting would be totally political,'' Asefi added.

Asefi reiterated that Iran had no immediate plans to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) because of being reported to the world body in New York.

''Opting out of the NPT is not on the agenda,'' he said.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki reiterated Iran's official position, voiced by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month, that Iran could reconsider its stance if it felt it was being unfairly pressured.

But he too stressed this would be an extreme resort.

''We prefer to use existing mechanisms and to have our rights from our more than 30-year membership of the NPT,'' he said.

REUTERS CH BS1433

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