Mon, Nov 13, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Russia hopeful about Iran talks

AP , MOSCOW

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani during their meeting just outside Moscow on Saturday. At the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for goodwill on part of all parties involved in talks on Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

PHOTO: AFP

Russia's foreign minister voiced hope for a quick resumption of international talks on Iran's nuclear program, but it remained unclear whether the Kremlin had succeeded in persuading Tehran to soften its stance in talks with a top Iranian official.

"We will push for our common goal -- the resumption of talks with six nations," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a statement on Saturday after Russian President Vladimir Putin's meeting with Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani.

The two days of talks between Russian officials and Larijani signaled a renewed Moscow effort to convince Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment effort.

Previous Russian attempts to put pressure on Tehran have brought no visible result, and Iran has snubbed Moscow's proposal to host its enrichment program.

Larijani remained defiant after the first round of meetings on Friday, saying Tehran would push ahead with its controversial nuclear program.

Larijani also suggested Iran could break off ties with the UN nuclear watchdog if it imposed sanctions that have been proposed by European nations.

Larijani did not make any public statements on Saturday.

Lavrov said after Saturday's talks that Russia and Iran would make efforts to restart talks between Tehran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany.

"In the coming days, we will continue contacts with members of the six, which have proposed relevant ideas to Iran as a basis for talks," Lavrov said in a statement released by the Kremlin.

"Iran has responded to these proposals, and we think it's possible, if there is goodwill, to find a mutually acceptable basis for the resumption of talks on the basis of the proposals of the six and Iran's response to them," he said.

The five UN Security Council members and Germany offered Iran a package of economic incentives and political rewards in June if it agreed to freeze its uranium enrichment effort.

But Tehran has said it would continue enrichment, a process that is central to both civilian power generation and the production of nuclear weapons.

Larijani also spoke positively about Moscow's proposal to host an Iranian enrichment effort at facilities in Russia, saying that the proposal remained on the table. However, he refused to clarify his remarks further.

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