Russia Announces More Nuke Talks With Iran

Published March 13, 2006

| Associated Press

Russia will hold another round of nuclear consultations with Iran, which has rejected Moscow's demand to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday.

The Interfax news agency, citing an unidentified source in Russia's embassy in Tehran, said that the talks could take place in Moscow on Tuesday and Wednesday, and would be at the level of the deputy head of Iran's powerful National Security Council.

"Iran in the last day or two appealed to us again to hold consultations," Lavrov said at a briefing. "They will take place in the nearest future."

Earlier talks on Russia's offer to host the Iranian uranium enrichment program produced no results.

"We are very disappointed with the way Iran has been conducting itself in these negotiations, absolutely not helping those who want to provide for finding peaceful ways to resolve the whole situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program," Lavrov said.

Before the U.N. Security Council takes up the issue this week, a Western diplomat, who insisted on anonymity in detailing the confidential discussions, said a new meeting among the permanent council members — the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China — was planned Monday to look at a revised draft statement.

The text was aimed at pressuring Tehran to resolve questions about its nuclear program, including demands that it abandon uranium enrichment.

Earlier Monday, Moscow's atomic energy chief, Sergei Kiriyenko, said a Kremlin proposal to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian territory remains open. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi had said Sunday that Tehran would no longer consider the Russian proposal.

"Russia believes that Iran, like any other state, has the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but the global community has the right to demand guarantees of nonproliferation. Russia has made its offer to combine these two positions," Kiriyenko said.

"The Russian proposal has and will remain, and it's not going to change. Attempts to extract just certain fragments of it won't work."

Russia has made its enrichment offer contingent on Tehran suspending its own enrichment effort, but Iranian officials have rejected the link.

The text was aimed at pressuring Tehran to resolve questions about its nuclear program, including demands that it abandon uranium enrichment.

Tehran, which only has an experimental nuclear research program, repeatedly has warned it will begin large-scale uranium enrichment if referred it the Security Council, which occurred last week.

Iran has insisted it will never give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel. It restarted research-scale uranium enrichment last month, two years after voluntarily freezing the program during talks with Germany, Britain and France.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Sunday reiterated a veiled warning that Iran may consider withdrawing from the NPT if its right to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel is not respected.

"If we reach a point that the existing rules don't meet the right of the Iranian nation, the Islamic Republic of Iran may reconsider policies," he said.

A report last week by International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran was testing centrifuges, which spin uranium gas into enriched uranium, and had plans to begin installation of the first 3,000 centrifuges late this year. Iran will need to install about 60,000 centrifuges for a large-scale enrichment of uranium.

Iran insists its program is designed only to generate electricity, but the U.S. claims Tehran has been working to build a bomb for more than a decade. Britain and France are also skeptical of the Iranians, and the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, says it has serious questions about Iran's program.

In an interview with the daily Vremya Novostei, Lavrov also criticized the U.S. stance toward Tehran, accusing Washington of using the nuclear crisis "to solve some political tasks in their relations with the (current) regime."

Lavrov called again for the main players in the crisis — Russia, the United States, France, Germany, Britain and China — to meet with ElBaradei in Vienna and he insisted that the IAEA remain central to solving the crisis.

"But sometimes our Western partners propose acting according to this logic: since there's not clarity (in Iran's nuclear program) then let's put on pressure more quickly and impose sanctions," Lavrov said.

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