Reuters: The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, said Thursday he hoped Iran would fully suspend
its uranium enrichment-related activities and that his agency was working with it to do so. Iran said Wednesday it had processed several tons of raw "yellowcake" uranium to
prepare it for enrichment -- a process that can be used to
make atomic weapons -- in defiance of the U.N. watchdog. Reuters

TOKYO - The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, said Thursday he hoped Iran would fully suspend its uranium enrichment-related activities and that his agency was working with it to do so.

Iran said Wednesday it had processed several tons of raw "yellowcake" uranium to prepare it for enrichment -- a process that can be used to make atomic weapons -- in defiance of the U.N. watchdog.

"Well, they are doing conversion but they are not enriching uranium," ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told reporters after a meeting with Hiroyuki Hosoda, Japan's chief cabinet minister and top government spokesman.

"I am calling on them obviously to fully suspend all enrichment-related activities as a confidence-boosting measure," he added.

"We are still working with them, the Europeans are working with them and I hope we can move forward in a positive way."

Iran's president said Tehran would not give in to foreign pressure aimed at stopping what he said was a peaceful nuclear energy program, but which the United States says is a covert scheme aimed at building bombs.

An IAEA spokeswoman in Vienna said the uranium processing was being closely monitored by the watchdog to ensure that nothing would be diverted for weapons purposes.

It was unclear how much processed uranium had been produced so far, though Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA, Hossein Mousavian, indicated the amount was not large.

Iran's uranium conversion plant at Isfahan intends to process a total of 37 tons of yellowcake, which experts say could be enriched into material for up to five atomic weapons.

ElBaradei arrived in Tokyo Wednesday for a four-day visit.

The IAEA board of governors passed a resolution last month demanding Iran freeze all activities connected with uranium enrichment, including making feed material for centrifuges.

Tehran had originally promised France, Germany and Britain in October 2003 that it would suspend its entire enrichment program and all related activities. While it has yet to enrich any uranium, Iran never entirely froze the program and recently resumed key parts of it.

If Tehran fails to heed the demands, the board said it would consider possible "further steps" when it meets next month. Diplomats on the board said this included possibly referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which can impose sanctions.

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