VIENNA — Iran said Monday that it had frozen all uranium enrichment programs, a move that was likely to undercut a U.S. effort to refer Tehran's nuclear activities to the United Nations Security Council for consideration of sanctions.
Iran's statement was welcomed by Europe and cautiously endorsed by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency.
But even if it were verified by the IAEA, the freeze would fall short of European and U.S. hopes of a commitment to scrap enrichment permanently.
Iran has said the suspension will be temporary and insists that it has the right to make enriched uranium, a material that can be used as fuel in nuclear power plants or, if processed further, in atomic weapons. Tehran has denied U.S. assertions that it wants to make weapons, saying it is interested only in generating electricity.
"Today the whole enrichment process has been suspended," Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said. President Bush reacted to the announcement with mild skepticism. "Let's say, I hope it's true," he said.