MOSCOW (AP) – Iran’s top nuclear negotiator meets with Russian officials in Moscow Tuesday, a day after Tehran upped the ante in its nuclear standoff with countries wanting to refer it to the U.N. Security Council.
Ali Larijani’s talks with Russian Security Council chief Igor Ivanov and others come after Iran warned that referral to the U.N. Security Council would lead it to immediately forge ahead with a full-scale uranium enrichment program.
With little more than a week until the Feb. 2 meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation board, high-level international diplomacy has intensified.
Moscow has proposed having Iran’s uranium enriched in Russia, then returned to Iran for use in the country’s reactors, a compromise that would provide more oversight and ease tensions. But haggling has continued over the specifics of the proposal, including Tehran’s proposal to have China involved in the Russian enrichment process.
A European official said Monday the Iranian and Russian officials would discuss the possibility of allowing Iran to conduct small-scale experimental enrichment itself if it agreed to move all industrial production to Russia. The official demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing confidential details of the negotiations.
Also Tuesday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari met in Moscow with the head of the Russian Atomic Energy Agency, Sergei Kiriyenko. The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Iranian Ambassador Gholamreza Ansari as saying that Iran was waiting for “several clarifications” from Moscow regarding the Russian proposal.
Larijani said Iran was ready for compromise, but dismissed Western concerns about the country’s nuclear activities. “We have not closed the path to compromise,” he said in a televised interview in Tehran with the British Broadcasting Corp. before his departure. “Talks in hich they want to impose certain pressures will not be constructive.”
“I am surprised they are so sensitive about nuclear research in Iran,” he said, according to an English translation of his comments. “We’ve said this before. Our research is on a laboratory scale, a small scale. If they want guarantees of no diversion of nuclear fuel, we can reach a formula acceptable to both sides in talks.”
Ending a 15-month commitment, Iran removed IAEA seals from equipment Jan. 10 and announced it would restart experiments, including what it described as small-scale enrichment, a move that led the so-called “EU-3” to call for the Feb. 2 emergency board session.
While the Europeans believe they have enough votes to get Iran hauled before the council Feb. 2, they want broad support, including from key developing countries as well as skeptics Russia and China.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that “referral absolutely has to be made” on Feb. 2, while remaining vague on what action the Security Council would take, and when.
Meanwhile, a group of Russian scientists said that enriching uranium for Iran’s nuclear program in Russia would not necessarily prevent Tehran from making nuclear weapons.
“Any sovereign country with an atomic power plant on its territory can doubtless develop nuclear weapons, and Russia’s offer to enrich uranium does not make a principal difference,” said Valery Volkov, a senior scientist at the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Atomic Machine-Building.
He spoke at a news conference discussing technology designed to create nuclear power without using fissile materials.