Later this month, the clock will run out for Iran, when a U.N. Security Council deadline for halting uranium enrichment will expire. If Tehran has not complied, the Security Council will consider taking additional steps against the Islamic Republic. On Saturday, Iranian officials indicated a new willingness to cooperate with international nuclear inspectors within the framework of international agreements. From Washington, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Iran is still refusing to back down from what it says is its legal right to develop nuclear technology. But chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani softened his tone regarding the inspection of Iranian nuclear facilities.

Larijani expressed willingness to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to scrutinize Iranian nuclear sites, saying inspections would be permitted, as long as their visits fell within the framework and regulations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran is a signatory to that accord.

Last month, Iran barred 38 U.N. inspectors from entering the country to inspect its nuclear sites, saying it has the right to oppose the visit of certain inspectors.

The United States and several other western nations have accused Tehran of secretly pursuing nuclear weapons, a charge that government denies.

Larijani defended Iran's nuclear ambitions, saying acquiring modern technology is necessary to the country's progress. He added that, if Tehran allows, what he called "the big powers," to prevent Iran from obtaining advanced technology now, then his country would not be able to stop them in the future.

In an apparent show of openness, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Ashgar Soltaneih, showed a handful of diplomats from Egypt, Malaysia, Cuba, Algeria and Sudan, as well as an Arab League envoy, around a nuclear facility in the western city of Isfahan on Saturday. The group was also accompanied by dozens of journalists.

Soltaneih said the purpose of the visit was to demonstrate Iran's transparency and the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.