MOHAMMED ElBaradei called for a reply to his proposals from Tehran within four days but it is more likely to be four weeks and even then it will probably not be a definitive one. The issue, of course, is the deal offered to Iran by western powers to co-operate in enriching its uranium and returning it in a form suitable for use in Tehran's nuclear reactor. The benefit for the west would be that Iran's stock of enriched uranium would be kept below the level at which it could be used for weapon production. Mr ElBaradei is the director-general of the UN's International Atomic Energy Authority and has been working on a solution to the stand-off between Iran and the west on this issue for a long time. Perhaps he should not have set such a short time scale for an answer but he retires from his job at the end of the year and would probably like to finish on a high note. His chances of doing this are not good. The latest word from Tehran is a typical revision of what its representatives seemed to agree to at meetings in Vienna and Geneva. Unless Iran returns to the conference table with proposals close to the settlement formulated by Mr ELBaradei it is likely the west will conclude that Teheran does not want to co-operate and that the prospects of sanctions will have to be revisited.


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