WASHINGTON – The White House said Tuesday a report that Washington could scrap its demand that Iran cease enriching uranium at the start of talks on its nuclear program was not accurate.
The New York Times earlier reported that US and European diplomats have considered allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium for some period while talks get off the ground, which would mark a sharp shift in policy.
"This would not be the first time that I have stood at this podium, having read something in the newspaper that I found to be not accurate," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
The administration of former president George W. Bush had insisted that Iran mothball its enrichment program before talks begin, amid fears that the activities may be part of a nuclear weapons program.
Tehran had rejected that proposal, arguing that it had a legitimate right to run a civil nuclear program - including the enrichment of uranium - under international law.
"We have all agreed that is simply not going to work - experience tells us the Iranians are not going to buy it," the Times quoted a European diplomat as saying.
If approved, the shift in tactics would likely provoke outcry in Israel, which says Iran is trying to prevaricate while it continues to build a nuclear weapon.
Enriching uranium so that it can be used for nuclear power - or building a weapon of mass destruction - lies at the heart of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
The so-called P5-plus-1 - the permanent five members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany - have long offered Iran trade, financial and other incentives in return for halting its uranium enrichment program.
But so far Tehran has refused, leaving diplomatic efforts deadlocked.
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