USEC Inc.'s board of directors met yesterday but stopped short of resigning as the federal government's executive agent in a nuclear nonproliferation deal with Russia.

The board of the Bethesda-based uranium-processing company--which the federal government sold to shareholders in 1998--has told the Clinton administration and members of Congress that it may resign by Wednesday unless it gets assurances of federal financial assistance. But yesterday the board deferred a final decision until next week.

After conferring by telephone, "the board has taken the matter under advisement and will make the appropriate decision by Dec. 1," the company said in a statement issued after the meeting.

The issue arose as a result of USEC's attempts to lobby Congress and the administration for as much as $200 million in federal aid, blaming its financial difficulties in large part on its role as agent of an agreement between the United States and Russia designed to help rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Under an accord created in 1993, USEC pays Russia for converting highly enriched uranium from dismantled Soviet nuclear warheads into low-enriched uranium, which is then used as fuel in nuclear power plants.

USEC has been arguing that it loses money because the price it pays Russia for processing what was formerly weapons-grade uranium is higher than its own cost of processing. But the Clinton administration and Congress haven't stepped up with any financial aid.

On the contrary, as of last week the administration was negotiating with potential USEC competitors to take over the job, and both the administration and lawmakers from both parties were considering whether to rewrite legislation that protects USEC from a takeover until mid-2001.