updated 10/3/2006 1:25:25 AM ET 2006-10-03T05:25:25

Iran has proposed that France create a consortium to enrich Tehran’s uranium, saying that could satisfy international demands for outside oversight of the nuclear program.

Mohammad Saeedi, deputy chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, made the proposal in an interview with French radio in Tehran, suggesting two French nuclear manufacturers as possible partners in the consortium.

“To be able to arrive at a solution, we have just had an idea. We propose that France create a consortium for the production in Iran of enriched uranium,” Saeedi told France-Info in the interview broadcast Tuesday.

“That way France, through the companies Eurodif and Areva, could control in a tangible way our enrichment activities,” he added.

Areva is a state-controlled company with activities in several countries. Eurodif has a uranium enrichment plant in France and has worked with Iran before. Neither company could be reached for comment early Tuesday.

Tehran says it has 50 tons of UF-6 gas, the feedstock for enrichment, in Eurodif’s uranium enrichment plant in France but has not been allowed to use it.

Saeedi gave no other details of his proposal, and it was not clear when he made his comments to France-Info. But his comments appeared to be a new Iranian initiative for resolving the nuclear crisis.

World powers are in a standoff with Iran over its enrichment program, which Tehran insists is aimed at producing electricity but which many nations fear is aimed at making nuclear weapons.

Iran ignored a U.N. Security Council deadline in August to suspend uranium enrichment or face possible sanctions.

France, a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, is among countries leading the push to stop Iran’s nuclear activities.

France is also one of the world’s most nuclear-dependent countries, relying on atomic reactors for about 75 percent of its electricity.

Russia sought to defuse the dispute with Iran by offering to conduct all of Iran’s enrichment on Russian soil, but Tehran has refused. Moscow says it has worked out a deal with Iran for all the plant’s spent fuel to be sent to Russia, eliminating the possibility that Iran could reprocess it for weapons.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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