Iran: Nuke Deal With EU States Isolates U.S.

Iran's nuclear agreement with three European states is a "victory" that isolates the United States, Iran's representative to the U.N. nuclear agency (search) said Wednesday.

The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany secured a commitment Tuesday from Iranian officials to suspend uranium enrichment and to sign an additional protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (search) that gives U.N. inspectors the right of unfettered access to the nation's nuclear sites.

"A big conspiracy has been foiled ... (and) the United States has been isolated," Ali Akbar Salehi (search), Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, told state-run television.

He said the United States had sought to bring Iran's nuclear program before the U.N. Security Council. Iranian officials want to avoid their nuclear program going before the council, since it could impose sanctions.

The commitment, announced after a day of talks in Tehran between the European ministers and Iranian officials, came as Iran faced an Oct. 31 deadline to prove to the IAEA that its nuclear program is peaceful. If Iran fails to satisfy the IAEA, the U.N. agency is expected to refer the matter to the Security Council.

The United States, which strongly suspects Iran has a secret program to build nuclear bombs, cautiously welcomed Tuesday's agreement.

President Bush told reporters in Indonesia Wednesday he was grateful to the European ministers "for taking a very strong universal message to the Iranians that they should disarm."

"The Iranians, it looks like they're accepting the demands of the free world, and now it's up to them to prove that they've accepted the demands. It's a very positive development," Bush said.

The joint statement released at the end of the Europeans' visit gave no timeframe for Iran's signing the additional protocol. Nor did it say for how long Iran would suspend uranium enrichment.

But late Tuesday, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Hasan Rowhani, said Iran would sign the protocol before the next IAEA board meeting on Nov. 20.

Also Tuesday, Iran agreed to tell the IAEA the origin of traces of weapons-grade uranium that the agency's inspectors had discovered at two facilities, said diplomats in Vienna, where the agency is based. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has called those traces the most troubling aspect of Iran's nuclear activities. Iran says the contamination stemmed from equipment it imported, but it had been reluctant to name the country of origin. Once the agency knows where the equipment comes from, it can test the truth of Iran's claims.

Iranian representative Salehi said Tuesday's agreement "showed the United States that global issues cannot be resolved by war and destruction, but by dialogue."

"It is a victory for us, the EU and the international community," Salehi added. "I believe Iran's case will be resolved within the IAEA."

The three European ministers promised that if Iran does meet its commitments, their countries would help it acquire peaceful nuclear technology.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he appreciated the efforts of Iran and the European foreign ministers and urged Iran to "further cooperate" with the IAEA to resolve all outstanding issues.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Wednesday his government was looking forward receiving information from the IAEA on its expanded cooperation with Tehran.

"Russia is prepared to continue cooperating with Iran, including in the nuclear sphere, in strict compliance with international obligations," Ivanov said, according to the Interfax and ITAR-Tass news agencies. Russia is helping Iran build its first nuclear reactor.

However, Israel's military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, warned Tuesday that if Iran completed its uranium enrichment program, it would be able to produce its own nuclear weapons without outside help within one year.

Israeli officials charge that Iran is covertly acquiring nuclear arms know-how, at least some of it from countries of the former Soviet Union. Iran denies such allegations.