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Russia urges Iran to cooperate with IAEA

The two countries just wrapped up talks that were described by an Iranian top negotiator as 'constructive and positive'.

india Updated: Feb 22, 2006 12:12 IST

Russia urged Iran to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as the two countries wrapped up two days of talks that was described by an Iranian top negotiator as "constructive and positive".

"There was a serious exchange of opinions about the settlement of tensions over the Iranian nuclear program and Russia's proposal to set up a joint venture on its territory for supplying enriched uranium for Iran's nuclear energy program," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement issued after the talks on Tuesday.

Russia underlined the need for a comprehensive cooperation between Iran and the IAEA, which will clarify the remaining questions about Iran's earlier nuclear activities and restore confidence in its nuclear program, the ministry said.

Iran removed UN seals at its nuclear research sites and resumed research on uranium enrichment in January, prompting the European Union to scrap talks. Tehran, however, said its nuclear work was merely designed to meet its energy needs.

Earlier in the month, Britain, France and Germany, which have held on-and-off talks on behalf of the EU with Tehran for more than two years, pushed through an IAEA resolution to report Iran's nuclear issue to the UN Security Council.

Western countries have backed Moscow's compromise plan, saying it could help allay concerns over Iran's potential production of weapon-grade nuclear materials.

Uranium enriched at low levels can fuel nuclear reactors, but it can be used for nuclear bombs if highly enriched.

The Russian plan is seen as a crucial attempt to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme before the March 6 IAEA meeting, which reports say could start a process leading to UN punishment against Iran.

Speaking on Iran's state television before leaving Moscow for home on Tuesday, Ali Hosseinitash, deputy secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council who led the Iranian delegation, termed the talks as "positive and constructive".

Hosseinitash said the two sides "reached a rudimental agreement on principles of a common formula and will continue negotiations to further the agreement".

He said certain elements of the negotiations gave hope that an agreement may be reached, the Interfax news agency reported.

The negotiations covered not only the Russian proposal but also priority issues for Tehran, Hosseinitash said.

Russian officials, however, sounded less optimistic.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency, said he "would be cautious about using the terms 'failure' or 'setback' to describe the results of the talks before they end."