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Iran sets Monday deadline on nuclear deal

Holds out uranium enrichment issue as bargaining chip

Iran has a processing plant in the city of Isfahan.


European Union

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran will resume activities -- but not enrichment of uranium -- at one of its nuclear plants if three European nations do not submit proposals aimed at resolving an impasse over the country's nuclear program by Monday, according to a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry.

According to a report Sunday on IRNA, Iran's state-run news agency, Hamid-Reza Asefi pointed to reports from Western news agencies saying the proposal from the EU-3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- will state that Iran does not have the right to go back to enriching uranium.

"It seems that the European proposal will be an empty one and will not satisfy Iran's demands," Asefi said.

On Monday, the three countries, which have been involved in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, are supposed to submit their proposal regarding the program.

The European nations see their discussions with Iran as aimed at halting the program.

Asefi said Iran has written a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency informing the U.N. watchdog agency of its intention to restart its Isfahan nuclear plant.

He said the letter asked for IAEA involvement "because we don't want to do anything that might give the perception that we're doing something in secret."

Uranium conversion would be among the activities restarted at the Isfahan plant, but not enrichment of uranium, Asefi said.

The issue of uranium enrichment remains open to negotiation should the EU-3 return to the bargaining table, he said.

Enriched uranium is used as fuel in nuclear power plants and as fissile material in nuclear weapons. Uranium enrichment does not take place at the Isfahan plant.

Iran's permanent representative at the United Nations, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told IRNA on Sunday Iran's nuclear policy will not change under a new administration.

With a new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, set to take office in less than two weeks, Iran's parliament passed a law a few weeks ago that requires any Iranian government to pursue a peaceful nuclear project in the country.

The European proposal, Zarif said, should include "a minimum" of Iran's requests. The situation could be solved if Europe does not try to prevent Iran from exercising its rights, he said.

He accused the EU-3 of using an excuse -- that it wants to alleviate concern in the international community regarding Iran's nuclear program and its "peaceful purposes."

Earlier Sunday, Iran said it had rejected a request from the nations to extend Monday's deadline for a few more weeks. Asefi said waiting any longer to resume nuclear activities would be "unacceptable."

"We will not wait any longer," he said on IRNA. "The Islamic Republic of Iran did its best to do everything in total agreement with the EU, but apparently the Europeans have limitations and cannot deliver on their agreements and promises."

The United States wants to increase international pressure on Iran to stop development of what it claims is a secret nuclear weapons program.

Tehran says it is developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes and insists it has a right to undertake uranium enrichment and development of nuclear technology.

The United States has tried unsuccessfully for the past few years to get the IAEA board to refer the issue of Iran to the U.N. Security Council.

Asked by a reporter what Iran will do if that happens, Asefi said: "There is no basis in law for referring Iran's dossier to the Security Council."

But the council, he said, "is not the end of the world, and with referral of our dossier to the Security Council, the Europeans will suffer more than we will."

Earlier this week, outgoing President Mohammed Khatami said that if the EU-3 proposes Iran give up its uranium enrichment program, it will refuse to do so.

Journalist Shirzad Bozorgmehr in Tehran contributed to this report.

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