TEHRAN, Feb. 18 (Xinhuanet) -- Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Saturday hailed as "a step forward" a recent suggestion to allow Iran to perform small-scale uranium enrichment by the U.N. nuclear watchdog chief to break the deadlock over the issue.
"We welcome our friend's positive view toward the issue of enrichment inside Iran and regard it as a step forward," Mottaki said.
Some western media recently quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had recently expressed worry that it would be hard to reach a compromise on the Iranian nuclear issue unless the Islamic Republic is allowed to conduct small-scale enrichment work.
According to ElBaradei, a deal could be made by permitting Iran to operate a pilot enrichment plant for small-scale work in exchange for Tehran's withdrawal from industrial-scale enrichment.
Mottaki said Iran was ready to continue negotiations on the compromise plan and was determined to find "a suitable formula for building confidence on Iran's peaceful nuclear activities that would at the same time preserve its nuclear right."
"We find the view that upholds enrichment in Iran as a step forward. Iran is ready to continue talks with its friends to reach a comprehensive formula," Mottaki stressed.
On Friday, the Iranian Embassy in France said in a statement that Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani had made a new proposal on guaranteeing the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities.
According to the statement, Larijani told French media that the guarantees could be provided by Iran's admittance of IAEA's inspections and the appliance of centrifuges which are restricted to produce low-enriched uranium.
The statement also said in case the new proposal be accepted, Iran would submit the additional protocol of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to the Majlis (Parliament) for ratification, which the Iranian government signed in late 2003 but failed to be approved by the Majlis.
Tensions over Iran's nuclear program reached a critical stage after Tehran took retaliative measures recently in reaction to the decision of the IAEA board of governors on Feb. 4 to report its nuclear case to the U.N. Security Council.
Iran has suspended what it defined as "voluntary measures" to build confidence, ceasing the implementation of the additional protocol and resuming some small-scale uranium enrichment work for research purpose.
Uranium enrichment is a key step for constructing nuclear fuel cycle, but highly enriched uranium can be used for building nuclear weapons.
Iran and Russia will hold negotiations on Monday in Moscow to discuss a Russian proposal that the two countries establish a joint venture in Russia to enrich uranium for Iran.
Iran has vowed that it must enrich uranium on its own soil but said Moscow's proposal is negotiable.
The United States accuses Iran of developing nuclear weapons secretly, and the European Union holds that Iran's full mastery of nuclear fuel cycle technology will possibly lead to military usage.
However, Iran rejects the allegation as politically motivated, insisting that its nuclear program is fully peaceful and aimed at meeting rising domestic demand for electricity. Enditem