Iran Nuclear NewsRussian talks with Iran on nuclear program stall

Russian talks with Iran on nuclear program stall

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New York Times: A Russian effort to forge a compromise over Iran’s nuclear programs stalled today after five hours of negotiations in the Kremlin ended inconclusively. Negotiators for both countries agreed to hold new talks but did not announce when or where they would take place.
The New York Times

By STEVEN LEE MYERS

MOSCOW, Feb. 20 — A Russian effort to forge a compromise over Iran’s nuclear programs stalled today after five hours of negotiations in the Kremlin ended inconclusively. Negotiators for both countries agreed to hold new talks but did not announce when or where they would take place.

The talks, already delayed by several days, focused on the details of Russia’s offer to create a joint venture to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel here, even as senior officials on both sides played down the prospects of agreement ahead of a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency on March 6.

In Brussels, Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, suggested that even if an agreement were achieved, it would not resolve the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

During a series of meetings with officials of the European Union, he said that regardless of Russia’s proposal, Iran would continue its nuclear research activities, which the United States and other countries suspected are intended to develop nuclear weapons.

“We can continue our preparation from where we are now,” Mr. Mottaki said. “The research department will continue its activities.”

After today’s negotiations in Moscow, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, again called on Iran to restore a moratorium on uranium enrichment. He added that the talks would continue but said that it was “premature to speak to speak of their results.”

Russia has thrust itself into the center of the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program, determined on the one hand to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but eager on the other to avoid an American-led effort to impose sanctions or to use force against a country with close diplomatic and economic ties.

In televised remarks before today’s talks, Mr. Lavrov told President Vladimir V. Putin and other members of his cabinet that Russia remained committed to finding a peaceful solution, but also acknowledged that the issue was now mired in “the current blind alley.”

“Frankly speaking, our expectations are reserved,” he said, “but we will make every effort to prevent the aggravation of the situation and a shift toward the path of using force.”

Today’s negotiations were led by Igor S. Ivanov, Russia’s former foreign minister and now secretary of the Security Council under Mr. Putin. Iran’s delegation was led by a deputy of its Supreme National Security Council, Ali Hosseinitash. The head of Russia’s nuclear agency, Sergei V. Kiriyenko, is scheduled to visit Iran later this week, and the negotiations could resume there, if not sooner.

Iran’s responses to the Russian proposal — which has been endorsed by the United States and Europe — have been contradictory. The top Iranian nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, responded positively to the idea during a visit here last month, but others, including Mr. Mottaki today, described it as inadequate.

Russian officials have showed signs of impatience with Iran’s position, by delaying, for example, the completion of a nuclear power plant in Bushehr that was due to be finished already. They have not openly criticized Iran, however. Mr. Lavrov urged Iran today to take enough steps to satisfy the atomic energy agency before its general director, Mohamed El Baradei, reports to the agency’s governing board in two weeks.

In Brussels, Mr. Mottaki repeated Iran’s position that its nuclear research was intended purely for peaceful energy fuel, and not weapons.

“Nuclear weapons are not in Iran’s defense doctrine,” he said at a briefing with reporters, adding that Iran had always been honest in its relations with the European Union. “We would like to enjoy our right to have nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. We can’t accept any discriminatory approach to these issues.”

Mr. Mottaki met with Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the union’s foreign affairs commissioner, and Javier Solana, the union’s senior diplomat.

“There remains a strong wish for a diplomatic solution,” said Emma Udwin, a spokeswoman for Ms. Ferrero-Waldner. “We have no wish to isolate Iran; we hope Iran will not choose to isolate itself.”

Graham Bowley contributed reporting from Brussels for this article.

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