TEHRAN (AFP) -Iran will only consider a compromise offer from Russia on its nuclear programme if the deal acknowledges its right to enrich uranium on Iranian soil, the government spokesman said.
“As we said before we want to have enrichment inside Iran… and any proposal which is based on this principle will be studied,” government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters on Monday.
“We are studying the Russian proposal based on this framework,” he said. “The government will never give up its principles.”
Moscow has suggested allowing Iran to conduct uranium enrichment in Russia, giving the country access to the nuclear fuel cycle while guaranteeing its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The Russian proposal seeks to overcome the key sticking point in talks between Iran and the European Union over the programme, which the United States alleges is a cover for nuclear weapons development.
Elham’s comments came after top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani criticised the Russian proposal for having “serious problems.”
“It is an idea, not a structured proposal, we don’t see it as mature and it has serious problems,” Larijani, the secretary of the country’s Supreme National Security Council, said on state television.
Iran has denied it is seeking to build a nuclear bomb and says it is seeking only to produce electricity.
However, Larijani did not completely reject the Russian proposal.
“The (Russian) plan could be complementary and supporting, there are technological benefits, we have to examine them. It is not rigid and there is room for maneuver,” he said.
Last week another top national security official offered Tehran’s warmest reaction to the offer by vowing that his country would study it carefully.
“The new Russian proposal can be studied so that its economic, technical and scientific aspects will be clear,” Supreme National Security Council member Javad Vaidi told the ISNA agency on December 28.
He said that the Russian proposal was based on the establishment of a “joint Iran-Russia company on Russian soil” for the enrichment of uranium, a key component of the nuclear fuel cycle.
“It is natural that the share of the participation of the Iranian side in this project will be a serious element,” he emphasised.
However Vaidi also gave no indication of whether Iran was ready to drop its long-standing demand to enrich uranium on its own territory.
Russia enjoys close ties with Iran and is helping build the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran.