Iran Nuclear NewsRussia recognises 'suspicion' of Iranian nuclear programme

Russia recognises ‘suspicion’ of Iranian nuclear programme

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AFP: Russia said Thursday that Iran’s decision to resume sensitive atomic research fed suspicions that the Islamic republic may secretly be aiming to build nuclear weapons and strengthened arguments for referring the issue to the UN Security Council. by Dario Thuburn

MOSCOW, Jan 12, 2006 (AFP) – Russia said Thursday that Iran’s decision to resume sensitive atomic research fed suspicions that the Islamic republic may secretly be aiming to build nuclear weapons and strengthened arguments for referring the issue to the UN Security Council.

“The lack of economic logic and the absence of real practical necessity are questions that will feed suspicion that this programme could have a hidden military aspect,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Moscow Echo radio station.

Lavrov described anti-Israeli comments from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as “oil on the fire” and added: “All this adds political arguments for those who believe that Iran can only be addressed through the UN Security Council.”

He did not say that Russia — the main foreign contractor building Iran’s first nuclear power plant — fully shared Western fears that Tehran was seeking to build its own nuclear weapons.

Lavrov’s remarks nonetheless marked an unprecedented rhetorical shift and aligned Moscow more closely and publicly than before with thinking in the United States and other Western capitals about the risks posed by Iran’s nuclear program and how to address them.

Russia has in the past dismissed fears expressed by Western governments that Iran was striving to build a nuclear bomb under the cover of a peaceful atomic energy programme, saying they were unfounded.

It has also previously said it opposes referral of the Iran nuclear issue to the UN Security Council in the absence of clear proof that Tehran was hiding a weapons program.

Lavrov announced that officials from the “EU-3” — Britain, France and Germany — as well as from Russia, China and the United States — would meet next week in London for “urgent consultations” on the Iran nuclear standoff.

And he said the security threat posed by Iran was compounded by its possession of a potent rocket arsenal.

“The Iranian problem is very acute. … We should not forget that in Iran there is a fairly developed rocket programme, rockets of medium- and long-range radius of action,” Lavrov said, according to excepts released by Moscow Echo before the full interview was broadcast.

His comments came as British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the three EU states could call an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and that it was “highly probable” that Tehran’s case would end up being referred to the UN Security Council.

Iran on Tuesday announced the end of a two-year suspension of nuclear fuel research, drawing condemnation from the United States, Russia and the European Union.

Senior Russian officials, who have previously supported Iran’s nuclear ambitions and insisted the country seeks only peaceful atomic energy, hardened their positions this week saying Tehran’s move gave cause for “alarm” and “concern.”

Lavrov however insisted any decision by the IAEA to transfer the Iran nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council “will depend on Iran’s reaction and the line taken by members of the IAEA’s Board of Governors.”

“We want that to be a consensual line,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov noted that Tehran’s move to break the seals at nuclear research facilities was “not illegal from the point of view of international law,” reiterating Russia’s long-held position that Iran had a right to carry out the nuclear fuel cycle on its territory.

“Iran has the right to create its own nuclear cycle under IAEA control,” he said.

Russia has taken on a role of mediator in the standoff over Iran, proposing that Tehran agree to create a joint venture for the enrichment of uranium at a controlled site on Russian territory — a plan generally supported by the West.

Moscow is building Iran’s first nuclear reactor at Bushehr, which is set to be switched on later this year, at a total cost estimated by industry experts at 1.2 billion dollars (989 million euros).

“For us the most important task in this situation is not our bilateral relations, our investments in the Iranian economy, our economic gain from cooperation with Iran.

“In the current situation, the most important task is preventing a breach of the nuclear non-proliferation regime,” Lavrov said.

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