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Iran Calls for More Discussion on Russian Nuclear Proposal


Iran's top nuclear negotiator has welcomed Moscow's proposal to enrich Iran's uranium in Russia as a way around western concerns over Iran's nuclear program. But during a visit to Moscow, Ali Larijani pointed out the two sides would need to continue fine-tuning the possible deal, during scheduled talks in mid-February.

During talks in Moscow, Russian officials did not convince Iran to accept its compromise deal to enrich uranium in Russia for use in Iran's nuclear reactors.

Russia, which is building a nuclear reactor for Iran, made the offer as a way around growing U.S. and European concerns that Iran could secretly use its program to gain the technology to build a nuclear bomb. Concerns intensified earlier this month after Iran announced that it would restart work on its nuclear enrichment program.

Larijani, who begins a visit to China on Thursday was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying Iran "positively" welcomes Russia's proposal, but believes the project still needs more consideration.

Russia and Iran are due to discuss the matter again on February 16. But it is not clear whether that will be enough to ease pressure from Western nations that want to use an upcoming emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency to try to refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council.

Larijani also reiterated Tehran's threat of resuming full-scale uranium enrichment in Iran, if the issue is referred to the Security Council.

On a visit to St. Petersburg, President Vladimir Putin proposed creating international facilities in Russia for providing nuclear-fuel services like enrichment.

In comments broadcast on Russian television, President Putin told a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Cooperation Organization that such international facilities would ensure equal access for all countries interested in nuclear energy. At the same time, he stressed the facilities must respect the demands of non-proliferation, including transparency.

International diplomatic efforts over Iran's nuclear program are set to continue Monday in London, where the foreign ministers of the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - and Germany will meet to discuss the standoff.

The West wants to refer Iran to the Security Council immediately, but Russia and China favor defusing the dispute through continued negotiations.