Iran denies offering new plan on nuclear impasse
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran denied on Saturday a U.S. media report that it had offered a "nine-step plan" aimed at solving its stand-off with the West over its disputed nuclear program.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that Iran had proposed a plan to European officials that required the West to lift harsh oil and economic sanctions in return for the eventual suspension of uranium enrichment by Tehran.
It reported Iranian officials tried to gather support for the proposal during a visit last month to the United Nations.
Several rounds of negotiations over the nuclear program between Iran and world powers - the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany, known collectively as the P5+1 - have failed to secure any breakthroughs.
The powers fear that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb. Tehran says its program is for peaceful purposes.
The Iranian plan described by the New York Times would likely be a non-starter, as the six powers have demanded Tehran halt its 20 percent enrichment of uranium; ship any stockpile out of the country; close down an underground enrichment facility, Fordow; and permit more intrusive U.N. inspection of its work.
Tehran has refused to meet those demands unless economic sanctions choking its oil exports are lifted first, and denied on Saturday that it had made any new offers to the West to break an impasse that has lasted nearly a decade.
"No new offer outside of the framework of the P5+1 negotiations during the last meeting of the United Nations has been made, and the claims of some American news organizations in this regard are baseless," Mehr news agency on Saturday quoted Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, as saying.
Sanctions have begun to take a serious toll on Iran's economy, with its currency the rial dropping by around a third in value against the dollar in less than two weeks.
The United States Congress is considering expanding American economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not ruled out using force to halt the nuclear program. The United States, Israel's main ally, says it will not allow Tehran to produce the bomb, but sanctions should be given more time to work before force is considered.
(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Alison Williams)
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