TEHRAN, Iran – Iran said Monday it is prepared to temporarily suspend some nuclear activities but would not surrender its right to enrich uranium.
The remarks by the country's top nuclear negotiator, Hasan Rowhani, came just as the three major European powers were expected to offer Iran a package of economic incentives in hopes of persuading Tehran to abandon uranium enrichment (search), a process that can be used to produce fuel for nuclear weapons and reactors.
The move by Britain, France and Germany, expected this week, is designed to head off a confrontation between Iran and the U.N. nuclear agency, where the United States has been arguing that Iran has secret plans to build atomic weapons.
"From a tactical point of view, discussion on how long to continue suspension [of some nuclear activities] is negotiable," Rowhani told state television Monday.
"But if the discussion is about depriving us of our legitimate right [to manage the cycle of nuclear fuel], it's not negotiable. Our negotiating team is not authorized to discuss this either with Europeans or others," Rowhani said.
Any suspension of nuclear activities would have to be for "a short period," he said. He did not specify what activities Iran would suspend.
Iran says its nuclear program is devoted entirely to electricity generation. Its first nuclear reactor, built with Russia assistance, is due to come on stream next year.
But the country has come under intense international pressure to halt uranium enrichment.
Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (search) unanimously passed a resolution demanding that Iran freeze all work on uranium enrichment and related activities, such as uranium reprocessing and the building of centrifuges used for enrichment.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog is due to meet Nov. 25 to judge Iran's compliance. An unsatisfactory judgment could put Iran at risk of U.N. Security Council sanctions.
Iran has already defied the IAEA resolution by continuing to build centrifuges and by converting a few tons of raw uranium into hexafluoride gas, a stage before enrichment.
Iran has branded the IAEA resolution as illegal and says the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty entitles it to enrich uranium.
"We have some red lines. We have some principles. And we won't give up our principles," Rowhani said. "It's unacceptable for us that we are told Europeans and Americans have the right to manage the cycle of nuclear fuel and possess nuclear power plants, but Iran doesn't."
Rowhani said Iran had done all it could do to remove doubts about its nuclear program.
"We have provided the IAEA with all the information required to remove ambiguities and answered all the questions which the inspectors asked," he said.