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Russia, Iran want nuke issue kept in IAEA
Updated: 2006-01-25 09:12

Russia's national security chief and Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Tuesday that Tehran's nuclear standoff must be resolved by diplomatic efforts in the U.N. atomic watchdog agency.

The Kremlin statement reflected Russia's efforts to delay Iran's referral to the U.N. Security Council and Moscow's opposition to international sanctions against Tehran.

"Both sides expressed their desire to solve the issue in a diplomatic way within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency," Russia's Security Council said in a statement after the meeting between council chief Igor Ivanov and Ali Larijani of Iran.

The meeting came after Iran warned that IAEA referral to the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear ambitions would lead it to move forward with a full-scale uranium enrichment program, a possible precursor to making atomic weapons.

High-level diplomacy has intensified with little more than a week until the Feb. 2 meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board.

Moscow has proposed having Iran's uranium enriched in Russia, then returned to Iran for use in the country's reactors — a compromise that could provide more oversight and ease tensions. Haggling has continued over the specifics of the proposal, including Tehran's proposal to have China involved in the Russian enrichment process.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw urged Tehran on Tuesday to seriously consider Russia's offer to enrich Iran's uranium in an effort to end the standoff.

Straw also said in an interview with The Associated Press that he hoped the IAEA would refer the matter to the Security Council.

The West fears Iran wants to develop a nuclear bomb but Tehran says its intentions are peaceful and that it wants only civilian nuclear energy.

The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Iranian Ambassador Gholamreza Ansari as saying that Iran was waiting for "several clarifications" from Moscow regarding the Russian proposal.

Larijani said Iran was ready for compromise, but dismissed Western concerns about the country's nuclear activities.

"We have not closed the path to compromise," he said in a televised interview in Tehran with the British Broadcasting Corp. before his departure. "Talks in which they want to impose certain pressures will not be constructive."

"I am surprised they are so sensitive about nuclear research in Iran," he said, according to an English translation of his comments. "We've said this before. Our research is on a laboratory scale, a small scale. If they want guarantees of no diversion of nuclear fuel, we can reach a formula acceptable to both sides in talks."

Iran removed IAEA seals from equipment Jan. 10, ending a 15-month moratorium, and announced it would restart experiments including what it described as small-scale enrichment. The move led lead negotiators Germany, Britain and France to call for the Feb. 2 emergency board session.

European countries believe they have enough votes to haul Iran before the Security Council but they want broad support including Russia, China and key developing nations.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that "referral absolutely has to be made" on Feb. 2, while remaining vague on what action she thought the Security Council should take, and when.

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