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    Russia Presses Iran to Cooperate with IAEA

    Iran says it will not stop enriching uranium despite growing pressure from the international community. On Saturday, Russia appealed to Iran to take steps to restore international confidence, and to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

    The deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Saeedi, told state television Saturday that Tehran would continue enriching uranium. But, he said, Iran would allow the resumption of short-notice inspections of its nuclear facilities, if the U.N. Security Council drops its case, and returns it to the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Iran barred the inspections in February, after being referred to the Security Council over its nuclear activities. 

    Mohammad Saeedi also said the Islamic Republic is moving ahead on the technological front, installing two more sophisticated centrifuges at its Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran.

    Saeedi's comments come a day after IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei sent a report to the Security Council saying Iran is continuing its nuclear fuel enrichment, in defiance of international demands.  ElBaradei also called on Tehran to be more cooperative.

    Western diplomats at the United Nations say they plan to introduce a Security Council resolution within a week that would give legal force to the Council's demands.  U.S. Ambassador John Bolten said Friday that the draft resolution would be very straightforward.

    "It will simply make mandatory the obligations already imposed on Iran by previously existing IAEA resolutions," he said.  "That really put the ball back in Iran's court. It's up to them, whether they will honor their obligations under the U.N. charter."

    Russia and China, both permanent Security Council members with veto-power, have been reluctant to support limited sanctions against Iran. But, Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov turned up the heat on the Islamic Republic, telling his Iranian counterpart in a telephone conversation that Tehran must halt its uranium enrichment activity and cooperate with the IAEA.

    In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov emphasized the urgent need for Iran to take concrete steps to restore international confidence about its nuclear program. He also urged Iran to fully cooperate with the IAEA to clear up remaining questions about its nuclear program.

    Iran has repeatedly insisted that its nuclear ambitions are strictly limited to generating electricity for civilian purposes. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Friday that it is Iran's inalienable right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. He said Iran would never give up that right, calling it "our red line, and we will never cross it."

    The foreign ministers of the Security Council's five permanent members and Germany are scheduled to meet May 9 in New York to discuss Iran's nuclear program.

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