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US Skeptical About Iran Nuclear Pledge


U.S. officials have reacted skeptically to Iran's latest pledge to rein in its nuclear activities. Iran says it is willing to suspend any uranium enrichment, and Iran and the European Union have hammered out the outlines of a deal on the nuclear issue. Iran still remains under close scrutiny.

Iran's pledge to suspend uranium enrichment was greeted with caution in Washington, where suspicion of Iranian motives in official U.S. circles remains strong.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was guarded in his reaction to the news. "We have seen a little bit of progress, hopefully, in the last 24 hours."

Under the broad outlines of proposed agreement with France, Britain, and Germany, Iran would temporarily halt its uranium enrichment program in return for incentives in trade and energy from Europe.

Despite Iran's announced intention to suspend the enrichment of uranium, the Bush Administration does not believe Tehran is willing to voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons ambitions. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Iran has long had a covert nuclear program, and that the issue must be discussed by the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA. "If they're trying to correct those violations now by some new promises, first you need to see those promises verified and, second, we need to discuss with others at the (IAEA) Board in that case what the appropriate action is," he said.

IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said what nuclear material Iran is known to have is not being diverted to weapons programs. But, he added, there may still be hidden stockpiles of nuclear material. "What I can say ultimately is that all the declared nuclear materials in Iran have been accounted for and we are confident that they are not being diverted for military activities," he said. "What I cannot say at this point - and this is obviously also reported in the report - is that we are not yet in a position to conclude that they are no other undeclared nuclear materials in Iran. That's the question (for) which we are going to need a much longer period of time."

The United States has been pushing to have the U.N. Security Council impose sanctions on Iran for allegedly contravening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

But diplomats say the European efforts for a negotiated deal on the issue mean the United States does not currently have the votes to push sanctions through the Security Council.

The governing board of the IAEA - which is a U.N. agency - is to meet next week to discuss Iran's nuclear program.

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