Russia's Lavrov supposes deal possible with Iran before IAEA meeting

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that a deal with Iran on its uranium enrichment program was still possible before next week's meeting of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, news reports said. "There always is an opportunity to reach an agreement," the Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying in response to a question about whether it was still possible to negotiate an agreement with Iran preventing its referral to the U.N. Security Council at Monday's meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Lavrov's statement came even as Iran 's talks with the European Union broke up in Vienna Friday without any agreement. Lavrov said that a deal would only be possible if Iran resumes a moratorium on uranium enrichment at home and allows IAEA inspections to continue. He said his deputy, Sergei Kislyak, was in Vienna for more talks on the Iranian nuclear issue.

"Contacts will continue," Lavrov said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency. He didn't elaborate. Russia has urged Iran to freeze its domestic uranium enrichment program as a condition for Moscow 's offer to create a joint venture to enrich uranium for Tehran on Russian territory, but Tehran has rejected the demand.

Interfax quoted a Russian diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the talks' sensitivity, as saying that talks with the Iranian delegation in Moscow this week had produced "elements" that could "be a foundation for a compromise" that would keep the Iranian nuclear dossier within the IAEA and prevent its referral to the U.N. Security Council.

However, a Russian nuclear agency official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, said that the Moscow talks remained snagged over Iran 's refusal to freeze enrichment at home. The Iranian negotiator, Ali Larijani, insisted Thursday that bilateral talks should continue on the Russian offer, and warned that Iran's referral to the U.N. Security Council as the United States has demanded would kill Moscow's initiative.

In Washington , the U.S. State Department said Thursday Iran had only itself to blame for referral of its activities to the U.N. Security Council. he Vienna-based IAEA board of governors on Monday could start a process leading to punishment by the U.N. Security Council, which has the authority to impose sanctions on Iran .

Iran insists its nuclear program is only to generate power, but many in the West fear Iran is aiming to develop atomic weapons. Moscow 's offer to have Iran 's uranium enrichment program transferred to Russia has been backed by the United States and the EU as a way to provide more assurances that Tehran 's atomic program could not be used to build weapons, reports the AP.


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