MOSCOW (Reuters) -Iran is still considering a Russian compromise deal aimed at defusing fears Tehran wants an atomic bomb, despite previous comments to the contrary from Iranian officials, Interfax news agency reported on Monday.
Russia has suggested it make nuclear fuel for Iran to ensure uranium is enriched only to the low level needed for power stations. But talks foundered on Iran’s unwillingness to surrender its right to enrich on it own soil.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said on Sunday that Tehran was no longer considering the plan. But statements on Monday from Russian and Iranian officials suggested Iran was backtracking.
“Iranian officials have informed Russian diplomats that the Russia proposal on setting up a joint venture remains in force,” Interfax quoted a Russian diplomatic source as saying.
“To put it bluntly, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has made a statement and the Supreme National Security Council has denied it,” the source said.
Iranian officials also tempered the earlier dismissal of the Russian offer.
“The Russian proposal should be reviewed with respect to the new developments,” said Hossein Entezami, spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.
“Tehran has repeatedly said that it welcomes any solution which could help to resolve Iran’s nuclear issue,” he told the official IRNA news agency.
The United Nations Security Council has begun to tackle Iran’s case after the U.N. nuclear watchdog sent the 15 members a report last week saying it could not verify that Iran’s atomic activities were peaceful.
The council could impose sanctions on Iran but is unlikely to do so soon. Russia and China have the power of veto as permanent council members and do not support sanctions.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the United States and European powers not to turn their back on the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a tool to resolve the Iranian problem.
“We do not agree with those who, in our view, are using the situation around Iran to achieve some sort of political objectives they have in terms of their relations with the regime currently in Tehran,” Lavrov said in an interview published in the Vremya Novostei newspaper.
He said the European troika of France, Germany and Britain had proposed consultations with Russia, the United States and China — the five permanent council members plus Germany.
“We think this would be useful, and that it would be very important that IAEA director-general Mohamed ElBaradei should take part in them. I think it would be logical (to hold that meeting) in Vienna,” he said.