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Iran hints of compromise on nuclear freeze

TEHRAN, Iran — In a reversal, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator hinted Monday that Iran might maintain its freeze on enriching uranium to end a standoff with European countries over its nuclear program.

His remarks came one day after a Foreign Ministry spokesman had rejected a request by three European countries last week that Iran indefinitely suspend uranium enrichment in return for technical and economic assistance, saying Iran was waiting for a more "balanced" offer.

"The European proposal for an unlimited suspension of uranium enrichment can be implemented, provided it does not contradict the Islamic Republic's criteria," the ISNA news agency quoted the nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, as saying on Monday.

"We have said that we accept the suspension as long as it is voluntary," Rowhani said. "No country has the right to deprive us of our right."

He did not say how long Iran might be willing to forgo enrichment but said it would "patiently take any measure toward confidence-building."

Rowhani's comments were the first positive response to the proposal offered by Germany, France and Britain on Thursday.

The three countries asked Iran to give up its enrichment program in return for a guarantee to help Iran build a light-water power reactor and to provide a supply of reactor fuel, as well as a package of economic trade incentives.