Thu, Feb 16, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Iran will attend Russian nuclear talks

CONFIRMATION Tehran confirmed it will visit Moscow for scheduled talks on Monday after also admitting that it had already restarted its program for uranium enrichment

AGENCIES , TEHRAN AND MOSCOW

Iran has confirmed to Russia that a delegation will come to Moscow for nuclear talks on Monday, an official at the Russian embassy in Tehran said, the Interfax news agency reported yesterday.

"The Iranian side has given an official notification of arrival on the 20th and it was accepted by the Russian side," said Vyacheslav Moshkalo, a counsellor at the Russian Embassy in Tehran, according to Interfax.

Iran earlier asked Russia to postpone the talks until Feb. 20. The talks will concentrate on Russia's proposal to process nuclear fuel for Iranian reactors on Russian soil.

This came after Iran announced on Tuesday evening that it had already begun small-scale enrichment of uranium.

The talks would take place on Monday, instead of today as they were originally scheduled, said Javad Vaeedi, an Iranian nuclear negotiator, Iran's state news agency reported.

The resumption of enrichment work at the country's nuclear center at Natanz was in keeping with Tehran's decision last month to end a voluntary suspension of its nuclear research program.

But the call for new talks is another zigzag in a series of contradictory signals Iran has sent over the Russian plan, which would involve shipping uranium from Iran to Russia for enrichment there, an approach supported by the US, Europe and China. On Monday, an Iranian government spokesman, Gholamhossein Elham, said during a weekly news conference that the Russian talks had been postponed because of the "new situation."

A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday that it was unclear whether the remarks represented a desire to delay or disrupt the talks. But today, the Russian state news agency quoted Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of the Russian Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, as saying that he would make a trip to Tehran to continue negotiations.

"The trip has been planned, and it must take place in late February or early March," he said.

In Vienna, an official at the International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iranian scientists had introduced uranium hexaflouride gas into a "very, very small number of centrifuges" at the Natanz facility. Uranium is enriched by being spun at high speeds.

The official, who spoke anonymously, said that the current work "wouldn't be of any use" for the production of nuclear weapons, which calls for more centrifuges than Iran has built and more technical expertise than its scientists are believed to have acquired.

Vaeedi told reporters that the program would need some time to reach the level at which nuclear fuel for reactors can be produced successfully.

"However, the preliminary phases have been launched," he said, according to news services.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is meant only to produce fuel for reactors.

The official at the atomic energy agency said that the enrichment work fell within Iran's legal rights under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but ran counter to calls by the agency's director general, Mohammed ElBaradei, and much of the international community for Iran to resume its research moratorium. And the enrichment work is likely to intensify Iran's confrontation with the West over its nuclear ambitions, two weeks after the agency's 35-nation board voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council.

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