Iran Nuclear NewsStressing friendship with Iran, Putin backs IAEA plan

Stressing friendship with Iran, Putin backs IAEA plan

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AFP: Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced support Thursday for a proposal by the UN nuclear watchdog for a timeout in the international row over Iran’s nuclear programme and said Moscow was committed to cooperation with the Islamic state. by Nick Coleman

MOSCOW, Feb 1, 2007 (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced support Thursday for a proposal by the UN nuclear watchdog for a timeout in the international row over Iran’s nuclear programme and said Moscow was committed to cooperation with the Islamic state.

Asked about the controversial proposal by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, Putin said: “I think we need to work actively together in this direction.”

Iran “has a right to access modern technology, including nuclear technology. The point is to find an option… that fully guarantees Iran access but also allays the concerns of the international community. Such an option exists. Mr ElBaradei has proposed this,” Putin said at his annual news conference.

ElBaradei has suggested that Iran halt its controversial nuclear enrichment programme while the international community holds off imposing United Nations-endorsed sanctions.

The plan has met with a dismissive response from the United States and also got only a lukewarm reaction Wednesday from Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, who said Tehran would not “change its way” when asked whether the Islamic republic would suspend nuclear enrichment.

Washington suspects Iran is developing nuclear weapons under cover of its nuclear energy programme, while Tehran vehemently denies this.

Putin’s comments underlined the tensions between Russia and the United States over Iran.

He stressed Russia’s close ties with Iran, saying Moscow would complete work on building a nuclear power station in southern Iran at Bushehr, a project that Washington fears could be used as the basis for a secret military programme.

“We are cooperating with Iran in building an atomic power station for peaceful purposes at Bushehr. We intend to complete this programme,” Putin said.

“We are cooperating with the Iranians in developing in many areas, including in the military technological sphere,” Putin added, apparently referring to Russian weapons supplies to Tehran.

In December Russia was persuaded to back a UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to freeze enrichment. But the measures are not seen as far-reaching enough to hurt Iran’s wider economy.

On Thursday Putin said Russia was making diplomatic efforts of its own, having sent the head of the Kremlin security council to Tehran this week for talks.

“We hope the visit enables a convergence of our positions and that we can persuade our Iranian partners to take a decision that would improve the situation and unblock the relationship between Iran and the IAEA and allay any suspicions of the international community,” Putin said.

Last month Russia said it had completed delivery to Iran of TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile defence systems, a contract that is estimated to be worth 700 million dollars (540 million euros) and that Washington has urged Moscow to drop.

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