Russia says IAEA still could resolve Iran nuclear dispute

Russia's top nuclear official expressed confidence Saturday that the U.N. atomic watchdog agency still could resolve the international standoff over Iran's program, Russian news agencies reported.

Resolution before the International Atomic Energy Agency could avert U.N. Security Council sanctions against the Islamic republic.

During a visit to Iran, Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko said resolving the persistent questions about the intent of Iran's nuclear program "within the framework of the IAEA is absolutely realistic," according to Russian news agencies.

Still, Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, insisted his country could endure international sanctions for the sake of their nuclear program.

"The Iranian people have chosen their own way and they can withstand problems and secure their own interests," he was quoted by Iranian state television as saying after talks with a Chinese envoy sent by Beijing to try to find a solution to the nuclear standoff.

The U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose economic and political sanctions, will take up the issue of Iran's nuclear program after the IAEA holds a crucial meeting on the issue on March 6.

Moscow is struggling to persuade Tehran to return to a moratorium on uranium enrichment and agree to shift its enrichment program to Russian territory to ease world concerns it could divert enriched uranium to a weapons program, reports AP.

According to I ranMania News, a first round of Iran-Russia nuclear talks in Moscow was wrapped up on Tuesday with Iranian officials saying they were hopeful a Russian compromise to end the crisis over Iran's nuclear program would bear fruit.

The Russian proposal is to create a joint venture company that would enrich uranium for Tehran's energy needs on Russian soil.

Russia, as a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council with traditionally close ties to Iran, has been trying to mediate in the long-running dispute over its partner's controversial nuclear program.

Lu Guozheng, the deputy foreign minister of China, another permanent member of the Security Council, was also in Tehran Saturday although there were no reports of a combined Russian-Chinese meeting with Iranian officials.

On Sunday, Kiriyenko will visit the nuclear power plant Russia is building for Iran in the Persian Gulf city of Bushehr. A Russian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said expert-level talks on the uranium enrichment proposal were being held between the two nations Saturday and would continue Sunday.

Talks in Moscow earlier in the week brought no Iranian agreement to the proposal. The lack of visible progress has raised concerns that Tehran was using the offer to stall for time.

Russia strongly opposes sanctions against Iran and is eager to avoid an escalation of the dispute pitting Western nations against a country where it has substantial economic and geopolitical interests, nforms CBS News.

O.Ch.