Russia today dampened hopes of a deal with Iran that would ease concerns about its suspected nuclear weapons programme, reminding Tehran that it must first freeze its domestic uranium enrichment.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Kremlin proposal to set up a joint uranium enrichment facility on Russian soil was contingent on Iran ending its own enrichment activities – something that Tehran has so far refused to do.
“Among other components of these efforts, there must be a moratorium on enriching uranium inside Iran until specialists from the International Atomic Energy Agency have clarified all issues concerning the Iranian nuclear programme that emerged in the past,” Lavrov said.
Iran and Russia are to resume talks in Moscow on Tuesday, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported, citing an unidentified official in the Russian negotiating team.
The Russian official said the deputy secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Hosseinitash, would lead Tehran’s delegation – as he had last week.
On Sunday, the Iranian nuclear chief said after talks with his Russian counterpart, who visited Iran, that they had agreed in principle to Moscow’s enrichment plan.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier today said Iran was trying to use its nuclear talks with Russia to break the global consensus. “They still want to drive a wedge into the international community, but this will not succeed,” he said.
A European diplomat in Vienna said there had only been “some agreement on modalities, but not on substance” during the talks in Iran. The diplomat added: “Our understanding is that there has been a lot of spin by the Iranian side.”
“We’ll have to see what the details of any agreement are. Given their history, you can understand why we remain skeptical,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said today in a confidential report that Iran appeared determined to expand its uranium enrichment programme and also suggested that unless Iran drastically increased its cooperation with an IAEA probe, the agency would not be able to establish whether past clandestine activities were focused on making nuclear arms.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that the talks between Russia and Iran had not ended and would continue until the IAEA board of governors’ meeting on Iran, set for March 6.
That meeting could start a process leading to punishment by the UN Security Council, which has the authority to impose sanctions on Iran.
The Russian offer to host Iran’s uranium enrichment programme has been backed by the United States and the European Union as a way to provide more guarantees that Tehran’s production of nuclear fuel cannot be diverted to build weapons.
Iran insists its nuclear programme is only for power generation, but the West fears Iran is aiming to develop atomic bombs.
Also today, Lavrov told Russian President Vladimir Putin that after the Tehran talks “there is a better understanding of how this idea could be realised in practice”, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.