Iran agrees to 'basic' joint nuclear enrichment venture with Russia
IRAN'S ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog said yesterday that Iran had a basic deal to enrich uranium in a joint venture in Russia.
The announcement in Tehran came after a senior Russian diplomat said that putting pressure on President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad would only aggravate the stand-off over its nuclear programme.
Ali-Asghar Soltanieh, the Iranian envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), did not say if the joint venture enrichment was an alternative to enriching inside Iran, although officials have insisted they would defy UN demands and continue to enrich on their territory.
"He announced the basic agreement on a joint uranium enrichment firm on Russian soil and said there are only some issues regarding technical, legal and financial matters that need more assessment or exchange of ideas," Iranian radio quoted Soltanieh as saying.
Soltanieh was also quoted as saying Iran would issue tenders next month for two nuclear power stations, in addition to one being built with Russian help near the southern port city of Bushehr.
Iran said in February that it had reached a "basic agreement" with Russia on jointly enriching uranium.
But little headway was made due to Tehran's refusal to suspend home-grown enrichment, the main demand of Western powers who are threatening to press for UN sanctions on Iran.
Washington believes Iran's nuclear programme is part of an effort to develop nuclear weapons. Russia, which has close ties with Iran and is building the nation's first nuclear power plant, opposes sanctions.
Tehran denies it is seeking to develop weapons, and says its nuclear programme is aimed solely at power production.
Despite what top US and Russian officials have described as increasingly close positions on the Iranian nuclear programme in recent years, they appear distanced ahead of an April 28 UN Security Council deadline for Iran to stop uranium enrichment.
The US and Britain say they will seek to make the demand compulsory if Iran does not comply. Russian officials, loath to see the sanctions issue come to a vote in the Security Council, have repeatedly stressed that the IAEA should take precedence in resolving the tension over Iran's nuclear programme.
Meanwhile, a top diplomat in Russia reiterated Moscow's opposition to sanctions or the use of force against Iran yesterday.
"We firmly stand for resolving the problems in and around Tehran diplomatically rather than militarily," Oleg Ozerov, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry's Middle East and North Africa Department, said. "Increasing international pressure on Iran has no prospects."
With the international community urging Iran to halt uranium enrichment and the US pushing for sanctions, Ozerov said "the further increase in pressure on Iran could have the opposite effect", and lead to Iran's total refusal to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency. "The forceful option is extremely dangerous and not constructive," Ozerov told a seminar on global security.
He suggested that instead of pressuring Iran, other nations should also come up with proposals that could prompt Iran to cooperate. "Iran should have a series of weighty and constructive offers that it could take into consideration," he said.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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