Thu, Jan 26, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Iran welcomes Russia's offer to process uranium

PENDING THREAT But Tehran again said that it will enrich the nuclear material itself if other nations refer Iran to the UN Security Council

AP , MOSCOW

Iran's top nuclear negotiator said yesterday that Tehran welcomes Moscow's offer to have Iran's uranium enriched in Russia as a positive development, but held out the threat to renew enrichment activities if it is referred to the UN Security Council.

After talks with Russian Security Council chief Igor Ivanov, which included discussion of the plan to enrich uranium in Russia, Ali Larijani told a news conference: "Our view of this offer is positive, and we tried to bring the positions of the sides closer."

"This plan can be perfected in the future, during further talks that will be held in February," he said, speaking through a translator.

Larijani suggested that it would take some time to work out details of Russia's proposal. Some critics allege that the Iranians are using the proposal to stall for time as diplomatic pressure on Tehran mounts over its alleged nuclear weapons program.

"There are lots of details surrounding this offer that must be must be decided -- the location of the plant, the form of participation, technical cooperation," Larijani said.

He also indicated that Tehran does not necessarily see the proposal as the key to solving the diplomatic impasse.

"This project will not have the full potential to resolve all problems. We must perfect this project in conjunction with other measures that require more talks," he said.

Iran is prepared to negotiate with any country "that recognizes Iran's right to nuclear technology," Larijani said. But he said any attempt to refer Tehran to the UN Security Council would trigger a renewal of large-scale enrichment activities.

"If they use political pressure, if our dossier is handed over or opened in an unofficial way by the Security Council, then according to a parliament decision we are obligated to revoke the fulfillment of all moratoriums. In this situation, our actions will not be limited to research. Then we will begin industrial enrichment."

On Tuesday, Larijani and Ivanov said in a joint statement that Tehran's nuclear standoff must be resolved through the UN atomic watchdog agency's diplomatic efforts.

The statement reflected Russia's efforts to delay Iran's referral to the UN 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 after the two met.

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

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