MOSCOW (AP) – The chief Iranian nuclear negotiator said Wednesday that there was no need for Tehran to resume a moratorium on uranium enrichment activity, Russian news agencies reported.
“A moratorium is necessary when there is something dangerous. But all our activities are transparent,” Ali Larijani said after arriving in Moscow for talks, according to the Interfax news agency.
Larijani also said that Tehran agrees to all inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency if they are conducted in line with international law, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.
“We are not making any extraordinary demands, (but) we insist on those rights that are Iran’s due in the IAEA framework,” RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying. “We agree to IAEA inspections and those international inspections that are lawful.”
Meanwhile, Russia’s top diplomat reiterated Moscow’s call for Iran to return to a moratorium on enriching uranium as a condition for taking part in a joint enrichment facility on Russian territory.
“I do believe that a compromise that would not allow any violations of the nonproliferation agreement is possible,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Budapest, where President Vladimir Putin is on a state visit. “What is necessary is for Iran to come back to the moratorium, to accept the joint venture proposal as a package that would be supported by the members of the governors’ board of the IAEA. I’m not saying that this is already decided.”
In Tokyo, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that the Moscow 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 on the plan, which envisages enriching uranium for Iran on Russian territory to ensure the nuclear fuel cannot be diverted for atomic bombs.
“The Russian plan is on the table,” Mottaki said Wednesday. He added: “We are flexible.” The delegation includes Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who is also the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Interfax reported. It arrived just six days before a crucial board of governors’ meeting at the International Atomic Energy Agency. Monday’s meeting of the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog could start a process leading to punishment by the U.N. Security Council, which has the authority to impose sanctions on Iran.
Further action has been deferred until the end of next week’s meeting at the insistence of veto-wielding council members Russia and China, which have close economic and political ties with Iran.
The ITAR-Tass news agency said the closed-door talks would last for a day. The Iranian delegation left Vnukovo airport and headed into the city for talks in early afternoon; the venue for the talks was not officially announced. The delegation expressed optimism that Russia’s proposal could bear fruit.
“Europeans should definitely have a role in this package. Russia would have an essential role, China could have a role, too. The proposal has the potential to advance,” Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said on state-run television Russia’s joint enrichment plan appears to remain hamstrung over Iran’s refusal to restore a freeze on its domestic uranium activities, a condition that Moscow says is essential for its plan. Mottaki was quoted by Japan’s Kyodo News agency on Tuesday as saying that Tehran would enrich its own uranium even if the deal with Russia goes ahead.
Mottaki also said he didn’t envision a very long-term agreement with Russia. “There is a factor of timing, it means for how long this project will be continued,” he said Wednesday. “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.”
Moscow’s offer to have Iran’s uranium enrichment program in Russia has been backed by the United States and the European Union as a way to provide more assurances that Tehran’s atomic program could not be diverted to build weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is only to generate power, but many in the West fear Iran is aiming to develop atomic bombs.