Joint enrichment venture possible if Iran returns to moratorium, Russia says

A top Russian diplomat said Monday it would be possible to create a joint venture to enrich uranium for Iran in Russia only if Tehran resumed its moratorium on enrichment activities, the Interfax news agency reported.

"Our proposal on creating a joint enterprise remains in force," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak was quoted as saying. "Its fulfillment is possible if Iran returns to the moratorium as is set out in the resolution adopted by the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency."

The IAEA's 35-nation board of governors voted Saturday to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose economic and political sanctions. Tehran responded by saying it would start uranium enrichment and bar surprise inspections of its facilities.

But Iran said it was willing to discuss Moscow's proposal to shift large-scale enrichment operations to Russian territory in an effort to allay suspicions it is pursuing a weapons program.

Talks on the project were scheduled for Feb. 16 in Moscow. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine daily that he was "still hoping for a sensible compromise that Iran would engage in for the sake of its own interests."

"We have made a good proposal. The Iranian leadership must decide shortly," Ivanov was quoted as saying.

He added that "the idea that Russia plays the decisive role is inaccurate. We have good relations with Iran. But we cannot assume that Tehran will follow all Moscow's advice."

Uranium enriched to a low degree can be used for nuclear reactors, while highly enriched uranium is suitable for warheads. Iran insists it only wants to generate electricity, but the United States and some of its allies contend Tehran is trying to build a weapon, reports Interfax.


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