Iran to Suspend Uranium Enrichment in Coming Days

Iran said Sunday that it will suspend uranium enrichment in the coming days, a move it has promised to take amid pressure to prove it is not trying to make nuclear weapons.

It was the firmest timetable yet by Tehran to carry out the step, which the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (search) has been seeking for weeks. Iran has also said that this week it will firm up its promise to allow snap IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities.

"Within the next few days uranium enrichment will be suspended," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

Enriching uranium is a process that creates fuel for nuclear plants but also can be used to build weapons.

Tehran says it has enriched uranium only to non-weapons levels, as part of purely peaceful nuclear programs meant to produce power as its oil stocks decline. The United States accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and has pressed for the IAEA to declare Iran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (search).

Traces of weapons-grade uranium have been found on enrichment centrifuges at two Iranian facilities, but Iranian officials say the imported equipment was contaminated abroad before Iran received it.

On Nov. 20, the IAEA board of governors will weigh a report by the agency's director, Mohamed ElBaradei (search), on Iran's nuclear activities. If the board decides that the report justifies declaring Tehran in violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty, it will ask the U.N. Security Council to get involved. The council, in turn, could impose sanctions.

Under international pressure, Iran gave the agency what it said was a complete declaration of its nuclear activities just days ahead of an Oct. 31 deadline.

Iran has also said it will sign an additional protocol to the NPT, though when that will occur remains unclear. Asefi said Sunday that "within the next few days Iran's willingness to accept the additional protocol will be announced by Iran's representative to the IAEA."