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Iran: No move towards nuclear arms

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- One day after the United States agreed not to block Iran's application to join the World Trade Organization, Iran's leader has said his country is ready to temporarily suspend its uranium enrichment program.

President Mohammad Khatami insisted, however, that Iran has a right to nuclear technology.

"We have accepted postponing the activities of uranium enrichment in a voluntary way and only temporarily, even though we have no obligation. We are doing this for moral reasons," he said through an interpreter while visiting Caracas, Venezuela.

"We are ready to cooperate with the world to give more certainty that Iran is not moving toward the creation of nuclear arms."

The Bush administration contends Iran is trying to run a covert nuclear weapons program under the guise of a civilian nuclear energy initiative, an accusation Tehran denies.

On Friday, the United States dropped its opposition to Iran's application for membership in the World Trade Organization in an effort to bolster European negotiations with the Tehran regime over its nuclear program. (Full story)

The three European countries negotiating with Iran -- Britain, Germany and France -- had been pressing the Bush administration to drop American opposition to Iran trying to enter the WTO, which facilitates trade between nations.

Those nations, in return, agreed to send the dispute with Iran to the U.N. Security Council if the Iranians fail to fulfill their international agreements, including a promise to halt uranium enrichment.

But a senior Iranian negotiator in nuclear talks with the European Union, Cyrus Naseri, dismissed the U.S. move as a mere gesture, saying "it is too ridiculous to be called an offer."

"It is like trading a lion for a mouse," he told CNN. "Would the United States be prepared to give up its own nuclear fuel production against a cargo of pistachios delivered in truckloads?"

Pistachios are an Iranian export.

He said the U.S. deciding not to oppose Iran's entrance into the WTO "is really not something so significant that we could even discuss it as a tradeoff for anything at all."

Iran maintains that its nuclear program, which it is building with Russian assistance, is solely for the production of nuclear energy and that it has no plans to use it to build nuclear weapons.

But the Bush administration -- skeptical that oil-rich Iran really has a burning need for nuclear power -- believes Iran is trying to cloak a covert nuclear weapons program in the guise of a civilian program.

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