Russian-Iranian talks to delay until Feb. 20

Iran has asked Russia to delay talks on its proposal to shift Tehran's uranium enrichment activities to Russian territory until Feb. 20, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported Tuesday. RIA-Novosti quoted Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin as saying that Tehran had requested the four-day delay in the talks, originally scheduled to take place Thursday in Moscow, for "technical reasons."

Foreign Ministry officials refused to comment on the report. The United States and the European Union have backed Moscow's proposal to enrich uranium for Iran on its soil as a way to allay concerns about Iran potentially producing weapons-grade nuclear material.

Tehran had announced Monday that the talks had been postponed indefinitely. Diplomats in Vienna also said Monday that Iran had started small-scale enrichment of uranium, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors or bombs. The deputy secretary of Iran's Supreme National Council, Javad Vaeidi, confirmed Tuesday that enrichment of uranium resumed last week at Iran's main enrichment plant in Natanz.

Iran hinted Monday that its decision to delay the Moscow talks came in response to the International Atomic Energy Agency's decision earlier this month to report Iran's nuclear file to the U.N. Security Council. Iran responded angrily to the referral, saying it would resume large-scale enrichment of uranium and threatening to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Russia, a traditional ally of Iran, backed the referral only on condition the council takes up the issue no earlier than March, and it opposed the U.S. push for international sanctions against Iran, reports the AP.

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