YEKATERINBURG, Russia, (Reuters) – The six powers negotiating with Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment programme could offer Tehran security guarantees, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Wednesday.
“I think the ‘Six’ could make the following step: directly put concrete offers on the negotiating table, give Iran security guarantees and ensure a more distinguished place in negotiations on the situation in the Middle East,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov did not specify what security guarantees might be offered but said a combination of negotiations and incentives could help solve the row over Iran’s nuclear programme and wider Middle East problems. “I am convinced that this is an effective way of relieving tensions in the region and regulating the situation surrounding Iran’s nuclear problem,” Lavrov said.
The six nations negotiating with Iran to suspend its nuclear programme are the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Russia, the United States, China, Britain, France — and Germany. Lavrov met German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in this Urals city on Wednesday.
Iran said on Tuesday it would put forward new proposals in its dispute with the West over its nuclear programme, but ruled out suspending uranium enrichment activity, which Western powers suspect is aimed at producing bombs.
Lavrov said he had not yet received details of the fresh Iranian proposals.
Russia last week signed into law U.N. economic sanctions calling for restrictions on travel and financial transactions with certain Iranian individuals and companies.
Major powers agreed on May 2 to make a new offer of incentives to Iran to halt its sensitive nuclear work after a meeting in London, with Lavrov saying afterwards that Iran would have to suspend enrichment for the talks.
Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil producer, says it wants only to make fuel for power plants. The enrichment process, if desired, can also be used to make material for nuclear bombs.
Tehran has consistently refused to bow to U.N. demands to suspend its uranium enrichment programme.
The incentives Iran refused in 2006 included civil nuclear cooperation and wider trade in civil aircraft, energy, high technology and agriculture, if Tehran suspended uranium enrichment and negotiated with the six world powers.
Russia has been the main promoter of refreshing the June 2006 offer, while the United States has made no secret of its scepticism, with U.S. officials saying they saw little reason to expect Iran to change course.
Russia has built an atomic power plant for Iran at Bushehr and is supplying uranium fuel for the reactor. Tehran has signed an agreement with Moscow allowing the Russians to remove the plutonium-rich spent fuel and return it to Russia.