Iran denies offering new plan on nuclear impasse

DUBAI, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Iran denied on Saturday a U.S.media report that it had offered a "nine-step plan" aimed atsolving its stand-off with the West over its disputed nuclearprogramme.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that Iran hadproposed a plan to European officials that required the West tolift harsh oil and economic sanctions in return for the eventualsuspension of uranium enrichment by Tehran.

It reported Iranian officials tried to gather support forthe proposal during a visit last month to the United Nations.

Several rounds of negotiations over the nuclear programmebetween Iran and world powers - the United States, France,Britain, Russia, China and Germany, known collectively as theP5+1 - have failed to secure any breakthroughs.

The powers fear that Iran is trying to develop a nuclearbomb. Tehran says its programme is for peaceful purposes.

The Iranian plan described by the New York Times wouldlikely be a non-starter, as the six powers have demanded Tehranhalt its 20 percent enrichment of uranium; ship any stockpileout of the country; close down an underground enrichmentfacility, Fordow; and permit more intrusive U.N. inspection ofits work.

Tehran has refused to meet those demands unless economicsanctions choking its oil exports are lifted first, and deniedon Saturday that it had made any new offers to the West to breakan impasse that has lasted nearly a decade.

"No new offer outside of the framework of the P5+1negotiations during the last meeting of the United Nations hasbeen made, and the claims of some American news organisations inthis regard are baseless," Mehr news agency on Saturday quotedIran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, as saying.

Sanctions have begun to take a serious toll on Iran'seconomy, with its currency the rial dropping by around a thirdin value against the dollar in less than two weeks.

The United States Congress is considering expanding Americaneconomic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not ruled outusing force to halt the nuclear programme. The United States,Israel's main ally, says it will not allow Tehran to produce thebomb, but sanctions should be given more time to work beforeforce is considered.

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Alison Williams)

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