Iran to be flexible in talks with Russia over nuke deal
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Iran to be flexible in talks with Russia over nuke deal

Iran said it would be flexible in its talks with Moscow over a proposal to enrich uranium for Tehran's nuke deal, but will push to keep the terms of the agreement short.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2006 13:42 IST

Iran will be flexible in its talks with Moscow over a Russian proposal to enrich uranium for Tehran's nuclear program, but will push to keep the terms of the agreement short, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Wednesday.

Mottaki, speaking at a Tokyo hotel, insisted however that Tehran has the right to develop nuclear power technology for peaceful purposes, and he rejected allegations that his country was not cooperating in good faith with the U.N.'s nuclear agency.

Iran and Russia agreed in principle to establish a joint uranium enrichment venture, a possible breakthrough in talks on a U.S.-backed Kremlin proposal designed to ease international concerns over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Mottaki, speaking ahead of a negotiating session in Russia on the pact, said talks would focus on the location of enrichment and the length of the agreement. Russia and Iran held talks last week but made little apparent progress.

"The Russian plan is on the table," he said, adding later: "We are flexible."

Mottaki said Iran nonetheless planned to go ahead with the production of nuclear fuel. He was quoted as saying that Tehran would enrich its own uranium, even if the deal with Russia goes ahead. Moscow has called for a freeze in Iran's enrichment activities.

He also said he didn't envision a long-term agreement with Russia.

"There is a factor of timing _ it means for how long this project will be continued," he said. "Definitely in this item, Iran insists as short as possible. These are the main debates from my understanding, and we are trying to reach some compromise."

The United States and other Western governments suspect that Iran's nuclear research program is a cover for weapons development. But Tehran insists it only wants to develop technology to generate energy.

Japan, a top U.S. ally which also relies on Iran for much of its oil imports, has been keen to play a mediating role in resolving the standoff.

Tokyo also has a special link with Mottaki, who served as ambassador to Japan from 1994 to 1999.

Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Foreign Minister Taro Aso, have urged Mottaki during his three-day visit to stop its uranium enrichment and strike a deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Mottaki appeared to bristle at the Japanese stance, however, and he said Iran expected Tokyo to support Tehran's right to peaceful nuclear technology.

On Tuesday, he proposed that Tokyo help Iran build 10-15 nuclear power plants.

First Published: Mar 01, 2006 13:42 IST