Iran Nuclear NewsRussia chides Iran for opposing nuclear talks

Russia chides Iran for opposing nuclear talks

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Reuters: Russia’s U.N. ambassador criticized Iran on Monday for dismissing the idea of negotiating with six world powers to resolve a long-running stand-off over Tehran’s nuclear program. By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia’s U.N. ambassador criticized Iran on Monday for dismissing the idea of negotiating with six world powers to resolve a long-running stand-off over Tehran’s nuclear program.

The U.N. Security Council on March 3 imposed a third round of sanctions on Iran for defying council demands that it suspend its uranium enrichment program, which could be used to make fuel for power plants or atomic weapons.

The five permanent council members — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia — and Germany also said they were ready to enhance a June 2006 offer of incentives if Iran would halt enrichment and negotiate with the six. But Tehran said it would only negotiate with the United Nations.

“Their (Iran’s) statements of a negative nature towards the negotiations are certainly not helpful and not constructive,” Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin told reporters.

“We hope that will change, because the only way to resolve this matter politically and diplomatically is through negotiations,” he said.

Days after the resolution was adopted by the Security Council, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tehran would negotiate exclusively with the U.N. nuclear watchdog in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“From now on, our nuclear issue is with the agency (IAEA) only and we will not negotiate with anyone outside the agency about Iran’s nuclear issue,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

The six powers have been relying on European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to pursue talks with Iran’s nuclear negotiators.

AN ENRICHED PROPOSAL

Churkin also said the six powers would have to do their part as well by making the package of political and economic incentives on offer to Iran as attractive as possible.

“The six will continue developing and enriching their approach in order to make the prospect of negotiations more interesting to the Iranians,” he said.

But he said Iran would have to show “more constructiveness and understanding of the need for serious talks with the six.”

So far Tehran has rejected the main condition for beginning talks with the six — freezing its uranium enrichment program — though it had been willing to at least talk with Solana.

The United States and its European allies fear Tehran is amassing the capability to produce atomic weapons using highly enriched uranium fuel. Iran denies the allegation, saying it will only produce low grade fuel for electricity generation.

Churkin reiterated Moscow’s position that Iran’s enrichment program makes no economic sense since it can purchase Russian fuel at a much lower cost. Iran disagrees with this analysis.

Russia has built an atomic power plant for Iran at Bushehr and is supplying all the fuel for the reactor. Tehran signed an agreement with Moscow allowing the Russians to remove the plutonium-rich spent fuel and return it to Russia.

Last week, Iran threatened legal action against Western states to seek compensation for losses it said it had suffered from U.N. Security Council sanctions over its nuclear program.

The threat came in a 20-page letter from Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. It rejects as illegal the latest sanctions resolution and says Tehran will not comply with it.

(Editing by Kieran Murray)

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