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Russian Foreign Minister Says Diplomatic Solution to Iranian Nuclear Standoff Still Possible

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says a diplomatic solution could end the standoff with Iran over its nuclear program. But he says Iran must first reinstate the moratorium on uranium enrichment it broke last week.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that it should be possible to find a negotiated solution with Iran to end the nuclear standoff without resorting to sanctions.

But he says Tehran cannot expect talks to succeed unless it halts work on its uranium enrichment program that was resumed last week.

At a wide-ranging news conference in Moscow, Mr. Lavrov cautioned against "letting momentary political considerations" get in the way of diplomacy, reiterating Russia's belief that referring the issue to the United Nations Security Council was not a solution.

Europe and the United States say that may be the next step if Iran fails to end what many suspect is a program to develop nuclear weapons while claiming its aim is solely to produce energy.

Moscow has proposed a compromise solution in which uranium enrichment would take place in Russia for use in Iran's nuclear reactors.

After previously rejecting this idea, on Monday Iran's ambassador to Russia, Gholamreza Ansari, said his country is still considering it.

Mr. Lavrov says Russia plans to hold formal talks with Iran on the proposal in mid-February.

The overall aim is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons through constructive dialogue, he says, adding that a collective approach should be able to find a means to solve the issue.

Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Iran and has certain leverage with those Mr. Lavrov calls "our Iranian partners."

On Monday, President Vladimir Putin also urged caution in dealing with the Iranian issue, saying Tehran might still accept the enrichment plan, which Western nations also support.

But the mixed signals coming out of Iran have left the international community skeptical about Tehran's true intentions.

Diplomats meeting in London Monday called for an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency on February 2 that could refer the issue to the Security Council.