Mohamed ElBaradei, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief, raised hopes of a breakthrough in the nuclear standoff with Iran Monday when he announced a deal that would let Tehran pursue some atomic research.
"No nuke to the mullahs" -- demonstrators outside the IAEA
Speaking before delivering a report on Iran that could bring the Islamic republic before the UN Security Council to face sanctions, ElBaradei said a deal to break the deadlock was still possible and that initial reactions from Tehran were fuelling hopes.
The IAEA chief added that Iran had been active in the surge of diplomacy which had been gaining pace in the run-up to the release of the report and had offered not to pursue industrial-scale uranium enrichment for up to two years.
IAEA's ElBaradei hopes for a breakthrough deal
It was also revealed by a diplomat close to talks between Iran and the European Union that Iran was considering the extension of that moratorium if it is permitted to run a small-scale enrichment research program.
Step back from the West's line in the sand
If Iran was to back down even slightly on the issue of enrichment research, about which its insistence to its right had been a line in the sand for the West, it would be a major breakthrough in averting an escalation in the crisis.
The United States and Europe had pushed Tehran to abandon enrichment out of concerns that Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The Islamic republic had consistently claimed that it was seeking only nuclear-generated electricity, not weapons.
"I am still very much hopeful that in the next week or so an agreement could be reached," ElBaradei told reporters, while acknowledging that Russia's proposal to enrich uranium for Iran outside its borders had snagged on Tehran's determination to purify nuclear fuel itself.
Enrichment will continue, says Tehran
Even if Iran agrees to a pause, its enrichment program is "irreversible"
However, despite the ray of hope, Javad Vaeedi, deputy secretary of Iran's national security council, insisted that enrichment "research and development" in Iran was irreversible.
"Iran is ready to compromise on the period of suspension (of large-scale enrichment), if it can keep its nuclear research activities," the diplomat close to the Iran-EU talks said.