Iran, Russia end talks amid pessimism

Iran and Russia on Tuesday ended two days of talks on a Kremlin offer to conduct uranium enrichment for Tehran, amid pessimism that the Islamic regime will accept what is widely seen as its last chance to stave off sanctions over suspicions it has a covert nuclear weapons program.

An initial round of consultations between top national security officials from both countries on Monday made no visible progress, and on Tuesday experts from the Russian Foreign Ministry and atomic energy agency held discussions with the Iranian side. The delegation was to leave Moscow for Tehran later Tuesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declined to label the talks a failure.

"I would be cautious about using the term 'failure' or 'setback' as long as the negotiations have not finished," he said in televised remarks. Russia's atomic chief, Sergei Kiriyenko, visits Iran on Thursday for further talks.

But a senior Russian lawmaker expressed frustration at the Iranian stance. "Unfortunately, Iran so far has not shown sufficient good will," said Konstantin Kosachev, head of the lower house of parliament's foreign affairs committee, as quoted by news agencies.

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 Kommersant daily reported Tuesday, citing an official in the Russian delegation, that the closed-door talks the previous day broke up after more than five hours without "any hope of reaching an agreement."

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

Lavrov said after the meeting on Monday that Iran should resume the moratorium on uranium enrichment activity that is seen by the U.S. and other Western nations as a cover-up for a suspected atomic weapons program, reports the AP.

I.L.

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