Iranian nuclear conversion plant reopening postponed

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani said the country would delay the reopening of the uranium conversion plant until next week.

Rowhani said he would grant the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency the time it has requested to install surveillance equipment inside the Isfahan nuclear facility, which should be completed by "early next week."

The move could help resolve tensions between Tehran and European negotiators, who want the suspension kept in place until Tehran receives a package of incentives from Europe, its release is scheduled for Sunday. The Iranian week begins on a Saturday.

Iran declared on Monday that the plant would reopen by Wednesday.

"The IAEA asked for a week to put the surveillance equipment in place. Our effort has been to shorten this period," Rowhani said on state-run television. He said he sent two letters to IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei asking him to "expedite" the agency's installation of monitoring cameras inside the Isfahan plant.

Rowhani said Iran is prepared to resume converting uranium into gas form, the feedstock for uranium enrichment.

Highly enriched uranium can be used to make weapons, while uranium enriched to lower levels is used to produce energy.

"Our experts are fully prepared in Isfahan to resume activities as soon as the formalities are finished," Rowhani said. "This will be done in less than a week."

Rowhani rebuffed European suggestions that the country was on the brink of breaking treaty obligations, saying that resumption of uranium conversion was within its rights.

Rowhani said Iran was only obliged under a U.N. resolution and the so-called Paris agreement with three European countries to maintain its nuclear freeze as long as negotiations made progress.

"If we feel time is being wasted, then definitely the Paris agreement is not an obstacle," he said.

Foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany warned on Tuesday that Tehran risked triggering an international crisis and could face U.N. sanctions if it restarted its nuclear program, the AP reports.

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