Iran took steps to participate in its nuclear program

Iran took steps Sunday to allow foreign countries and companies to participate in its nuclear program, state-run television said, but it did not elaborate on what the steps were.

The cabinet, at a meeting headed by hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, approved a rule that fixes the method of involvement by foreign countries and companies, the state-run television said.

Ahmadinejad first raised the idea of letting foreign countries and companies play a role in Iran's nuclear program last month, calling it a way to assure the world that the nuclear program would be for peaceful purposes only.

The United States suspects Iran's nuclear program is a front for developing weapons. Iran has denied that and says it is interested only in generating electricity.

Iran also has rejected as "illegal and illogical" an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution last month that puts it just one step away from referral to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

To avoid referral, Iran is being told to suspend all uranium enrichment activities including uranium conversion, to give up construction of a heavy water nuclear reactor and to allow more extensive inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Iran's government has already threatened that unless the U.N. nuclear agency backs down, it will resume uranium enrichment and block inspections.

The IAEA resolution was passed after Iran rejected a European package that called on Iran to permanently give up uranium enrichment. Talks between Britain, Germany, France and Iran collapsed in early August after Iran resumed uranium-reprocessing activities at a site in Isfahan, in central Iran.

Tehran had voluntarily suspended uranium conversion work under a November 2004 deal with the Europeans. The Europeans have said they are ready to resume dialogue with Iran, provided Iran stops uranium conversion work in Isfahan. Iran says it will never again suspend that activity but that it is prepared for unconditional talks, AP reports.

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