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Iranian official says Tehran could consider Russian proposal
Updated: 2006-02-15 10:58

An Iranian official said his country could consider a proposal to move its nuclear enrichment activities to Russia, while playing down Tehran's resumption of small-scale uranium enrichment as simple lab research.

Iranian parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel on Tuesday also called for Venezuela to join his country in forming an alliance to counter threats from the world's nuclear powers. He accused the US of attacking Iran's nuclear program in order to undermine Iran's independence.

Asked by reporters if Iran would accept Moscow's proposal to enrich uranium on Russian soil, Haddad Adel said: "If that means we are deprived from the peaceful use of nuclear energy, we could study the Russian proposal."

The plan is designed to allay fears about Iran using enrichment to build nuclear weapons. A top Iranian nuclear negotiator said Tuesday in Tehran that Iran would resume negotiations with Moscow next week on the proposal after saying earlier it would indefinitely postpone them.

Speaking through an interpreter, Haddad Adel also denied his country had flouted international rules by resuming small-scale uranium enrichment activities at Natanz, the country's main enrichment plant.

"All we've done is reinitiate nuclear energy research at the laboratory level," said Haddad Adel. "We have not said anything new or committed any crime."

Haddad Adel, part of a visiting delegation from Iran, thanked President Hugo Chavez's government for its "favorable position" toward Iran, especially its support on the International Atomic Energy Agency board earlier this month, when Venezuela voted against referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council.

Later in a speech to Venezuela's National Assembly, Haddad Adel denounced the U.S. and other nuclear powers for possessing "thousands of nuclear warheads ... (used for) threatening other non-nuclear countries."

"Mutual help is necessary in these circumstances," he said. "Iran and the Mideast and Venezuela and Latin America can act as two convergent axes to neutralize the plans of arrogant world (powers)."

Iran has maintained its nuclear program is designed solely to generate electricity. But the United States and others say the program could be a cover for producing a nuclear bomb and have sought to restrict Iran's moves to enrich uranium.

Haddad Adel on Tuesday called U.S. opposition to Iran's nuclear program "only a pretext."

"They are worried that we want to be independent," he said, but added, "I don't think the North Americans want to attack us militarily."

Chavez's government, fiercely critical of Washington, has strengthened ties to Iran, now its closest ally in the Middle East _ a relationship that U.S. officials have called a matter of concern.

"Not only do we consider (the Iranian people) strategic allies, we consider them as brothers," National Assembly President Nicolas Maduro said after Haddad Adel's speech.

Haddad Adel, speaking through a translator during interview broadcast on state-run television, said Iranians and Venezuelans were united against "imperialism."

"Relations with Venezuela are very good, and strategic," he said. "The people of Iran and Venezuela have common causes: the fight against imperialism and arrogance in the world, and that can be a very strong foundation for developing bilateral relations."
Venezuela and Iran are collaborating on business projects to manufacture tractors and auto parts, and produce cement in the South American country.

Chavez also has expressed interest in developing a nuclear program for peaceful energy uses.

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