Russia, Iran agree to continue talks on Moscow's enrichment offer

Russian and Iranian delegations ended a day of high-profile nuclear talks Monday without any visible breakthrough but agreed to continue their negotiations on Moscow's proposal to enrich uranium for Iran as a way of reducing suspicion that Tehran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Russia's foreign minister voiced hope of keeping international discussion of the issue within the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency rather than referring the matter to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions.

Decisive talks are expected to take place later this week, when Russia's nuclear chief is set to visit Tehran.

Russia's offer has been backed by the United States and the European Union as the final opportunity to ease international concerns over Iran's nuclear program without seeking sanctions, but Iran has adamantly insisted on maintaining a domestic enrichment effort.

The office of Igor Ivanov, the head of Russia's presidential Security Council, issued a terse statement after the closed-door Kremlin talks, saying that negotiators had "agreed to continue talks" on the Kremlin's proposal.

Ivanov's spokeswoman, Kseniya Roshchina, refused to say when, where or at what level the talks would be continued. The Iranian delegation was expected to head home Tuesday, she said.

The Foreign Ministry announced later that the talks will be continued Tuesday on the level of experts. It was not clear if these were the negotiations Ivanov's office referred to, or simply low-level technical consultations before the Iranians' planned Tuesday departure.

Analysts had warned against expecting a decisive outcome Monday, saying that any breakthrough would more likely emerge during Russian atomic energy chief Sergei Kiriyenko's visit to Iran Thursday.

Calls to the Iranian Embassy in Moscow went unanswered on Monday evening, reports AP.

O.Ch.