By Ray Fleming

YESTERDAY'S bid by Iran to negotiate a deal on its enriched uranium will be welcomed by the United States and others as an indication that Tehran is willing to compromise over its nuclear programme.

Or should that read:

Yesterday's bid by Iran to negotiate a deal should be taken for what it is -- a further attempt to delay new UN Security Council sanctions by making an offer from which it will withdraw when it suits it to do so? The deal, negotiated by Brazil and Turkey which are both currently non-permanent Security Council members, bears some resemblance to the scheme put forward by the International Atomic Energy Agency last year whereby Iran would ship low enriched uranium to another country and in return receive higher-grade uranium in the form of isotopes for its experimental reactor in Teheran.

However, there are differences in the new proposal in Iran's favour and as always when dealing with Tehran there is the difficulty of knowing whether any offer on the table is purely tactical rather than substantive. The experts will have to look at the details very closely.

Meanwhile it may be worth noting the activism of the Brazilian president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, in this important matter. His term of office ends later this year and, as I have mentioned before, his name is being mentioned as a possible future Secretary General of the United Nations when Ban ki-moon's term ends in 2012.