VIENNA — The U.S. and fellow permanent U.N. Security Council members have told Iran that they will hold off on new sanctions if it stops expanding its uranium enrichment activities as they seek to restart talks, diplomats said Friday.
They said the Iranian government had not yet responded to the proposal, which was made this month by the five permanent council members and Germany.
The public stance by the six nations remains that Iran should cease all enrichment, but the offer reflects a readiness to accept Tehran's current program, at least initially, in hopes of reducing tensions and creating an atmosphere for negotiations.
It picks up on an idea raised by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the United Nations' nuclear monitoring organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, who called for a "time out" both on enrichment and on a third round of sanctions against Iran for defying a Security Council demand that it freeze such work.
Iran says its enrichment activity is intended only to produce fuel for reactors that would generate electricity, but the U.S. and others suspect Tehran wants to enrich uranium to a higher level suitable for use in nuclear bombs.
Diplomats said the offer was delivered by the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, to Ali Larijani, Tehran's chief negotiator.
One European diplomat said the Security Council would not stand by indefinitely as Iran continued to run its enrichment activities. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity, saying the issue was confidential.
Besides demanding an enrichment freeze and a halt to construction of a plutonium-producing reactor, the Security Council has called on Iran to provide answers to the IAEA on activities that could be linked to a weapons program.