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Iran to Respond to UN Uranium Proposal Next Week

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Iran has delayed its response to a United Nations-backed uranium enrichment plan aimed at easing international concerns that Iran's nuclear program is being used to develop weapons.

Iranian state television quoted Ali Asghar Soltanieh on Friday as saying his country is still considering various aspects of the proposal, under which Iran would ship much of its partially enriched uranium to Russia for further enrichment. The uranium would then be used to fuel a research reactor.

Soltanieh says Iran is looking at details and will respond to Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by the "middle of next week." Iran was to respond by Friday.

The other parties involved -- the United States, Russia and France -- approved the deal ahead of the deadline.

IAEA said Friday that Iran told ElBaradei that it is considering the proposal in a "favorable light."

In a statement, the U.N. nuclear agency said ElBaradei hoped Iran would be equally positive in its response.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly echoed the ElBaradei's sentiment, but said the U.S. is looking for concrete action and does not have unlimited patience.

Earlier Friday, Iranian state television quoted an unidentified Iranian negotiator as saying Iran wanted a "positive" response to its counterproposal in which the country would purchase nuclear fuel for its reactor.

Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Kelly says preparations have been made for a visit Sunday by IAEA inspectors to the enrichment facility near the city of Qom that Iran recently acknowledged it has been secretly building.

Kelly said the results of the inspection of the Qom plant, and Tehran's final decision on the uranium export plan, will figure heavily in big-power discussions on whether to seek further punitive action against Iran over its nuclear program. The five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany will hold talks with Iran at the end of this month in Geneva.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt its enrichment activities.