Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said on Wednesday that allowing foreign countries and companies a role in Iran's uranium enrichment programme is the "maximum concession" Tehran can offer, state-run television reported.

 

Aghazadeh, who also heads the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, said foreign governments and companies can hold a 35% share for investment and practically contribute in and monitor the uranium enrichment in Natanz, central Iran.

 

"The 35% share is not only investment. They will have a presence in the process (of uranium enrichment) and production (of nuclear fuel)," Aghazadeh said.

 

"It's the best kind of international supervision totally negating any possibility of diversion (toward weapons)," he said.

 

New rule

 

Aghazadeh's statement comes after the Iranian Cabinet approved a rule last month that fixes the method of involvement by foreign countries and companies in Iran's

uranium enrichment programme.

 

Ahmadinejad first broached the
idea in September

 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad first raised the idea of letting foreign countries and companies play a role in Iran's nuclear programme during a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York in September, calling it a way to assure the world that the nuclear programme would remain for peaceful purposes only.

 

The United States suspects Iran's nuclear programme is a front for developing weapons. Iran has denied that and says it is interested only in generating electricity.

 

Iran on Tuesday rejected as "unacceptable" a call by the European Union for Tehran to re-impose a freeze on all uranium enrichment-related activities including uranium

conversion in return for a resumption of talks to avoid possible United Nations actions over Iran's disputed nuclear programme.

 

IAEA resolution

 

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, issued a resolution in September that put Iran one step away from being referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

 

The resolution called on Tehran to re-freeze uranium conversion and to give agency inspectors access to research, experts, facilities and documents. Iran rejected it as "illegal and illogical".

 

"It's the best kind of international supervision totally negating any possibility of diversion (toward weapons)"

Gholamreza Aghazadeh,
Iranian vice-president

The IAEA board will meet on 24 November to review Iran's compliance. Despite tough talk, Iran has taken steps in recent weeks to satisfy the IAEA but has stopped short of freezing uranium conversion.

 

Last month, Iran allowed IAEA inspectors to revisit the Parchin military site, a sprawling complex about 20 miles southeast of Tehran. US officials say that site may be part of Iran's nuclear arms research programme.

 

Tehran has also provided IAEA with key information about its nuclear activities. Iran hopes its cooperation will help it avoid referral to Security Council later this month.

 

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Monday said his inspectors were making "good progress" in their effort to probe Iran's nuclear intentions, remarks that ease the threat of UN sanctions.