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Russia Calls on Iran To Rebuild Confidence in Nuke Program


Russia's foreign minister has called for Iran to return to the negotiating table and halt uranium enrichment as a way of rebuilding confidence in its controversial nuclear program. Sergei Lavrov discussed Iran's nuclear program with top EU officials in Austria.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says only after Iran has stopped uranium-enrichment activities and related research work can confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear ambitions begin to return. IAEA inspectors could then do their job and be in a position to give assurances that Iran's advanced nuclear program is purely civilian.

The Russian foreign minister confirmed that talks with an Iranian delegation would take place Monday in Moscow. Russia has offered to enrich uranium on its soil and wants to discuss the details with the Iranians.

But Lavrov says the offer is part of a bigger package that requires Iran to stop its enrichment activities first.

"That is the message to Iran, and Russia is among those countries who not only send messages, but we are trying to use the time available before the next governing board meeting [of the IAEA] here in Vienna to make sure that we do everything possible to achieve what we all want to achieve, namely the resumption of the moratorium and resumption of the negotiations with Iran," said Sergei Lavrov.

Iran confirmed Tuesday that it has resumed sensitive parts of its nuclear program that could be used to make weapons. Earlier this month, the IAEA board of governors decided to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council, but held back on calling for sanctions.

Lavrov told reporters in Vienna sanctions have never proved helpful in such cases and usually led to further escalation. Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, on behalf of the European Union, said in a written statement that she had spoken on the phone with her counterpart in Tehran and expressed serious doubts on the peaceful nature of the Iranian program.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful.

The IAEA board is scheduled to meet again March 6 to decide if it should step up its pressure on Iran.

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