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Iran: Uranium enrichment suspended

President Bush says U.S. wants proof

A staff member works at Iran's Isfahan nuclear facility Saturday.
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SHARM el-SHEIKH, Egypt (CNN) -- Iran's foreign minister said Monday that his country has stopped enriching uranium temporarily as part of a deal with European countries, but President Bush said he wants to see proof.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told CNN that Tehran has suspended uranium enrichment for three months.

Kharrazi's comments at an international conference on Iraq came as the agreement brokered by Britain, France and Germany took effect. Under the plan, Tehran will freeze all of its uranium-enrichment programs.

But U.S. and Western diplomats have charged that in anticipation of the freeze, Iran has produced large quantities of uranium hexaflouride, or UF6 -- a precursor to the enriched uranium used in both nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants.

Speaking on a visit to Colombia, President Bush said Monday that Iran must "earn the trust" of countries concerned that it is developing the capability to build nuclear weapons. Bush said he hoped Iran's assurance that it has frozen its uranium enrichment work is accurate.

"I hope it's true," Bush said. "And I think the definition of truth is the willingness for the Iranian regime to allow for verification."

Bush said other countries besides the United States "understand the dangers of the Iranian government having a nuclear weapon."

"It looks like there is some progress," he said. "But to determine whether or not the progress is real, there needs to be some verification."

Kharrazi told CNN that Iran has not yet produced any enriched uranium or bought uranium from other countries. He also denied that Iran is trying to gain a nuclear weapon.

The Iranians insist their nuclear program is designed to produce energy, not weapons. The plant where they produce UF6 is regularly inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and such production is allowed under international nonproliferation rules.

But critics in the United States and Europe have discounted Iran's explanation, charging that a country with vast oil supplies has no need to pursue nuclear energy.

Kharrazi said his country has concerns about the threat of a pre-emptive strike against its nuclear facilities. But he said the United States should not take action without reliable intelligence -- a reference to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Bush administration officials had accused Baghdad of reviving its nuclear weapons program, but no such program has been found since the invasion.

"There are some concerns, but the question is what happens if there were to be such a pre-emptive action," Kharrazi said. "I don't think it helps anyone, but it creates more crisis and more problems and we have enough problems in the world. Therefore, I believe it leads to nothing but more crisis."

The IAEA will meet Thursday to discuss Iran's nuclear efforts, with U.S. officials expected to press the agency to refer the case to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

Sources have told CNN that the European countries dealing with Iran are preparing a draft resolution that calls on the IAEA to monitor Iran's pledge not to enrich uranium, and refer Tehran to the Security Council if it does not comply.

That language, the sources said, is softer than the language the United States wanted. But White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Iran's nuclear program "remains a real concern to the international community, and we're all working together to make sure that Iran fully complies with its obligations."

CNN's Christiane Amanpour contributed to this report.

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