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Annan Urges Iran to Suspend Enrichment Program, Resume Negotiations

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging Iran to suspend its nuclear activity and allow talks with Russia to move forward.

Russia has offered to provide Iran with nuclear fuel if the nation suspends it enrichment program. Iran says it needs the fuel to generate electricity. But the United States and the European Union fear Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons.

Last week, after the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to refer Iran to the Security Council, Teheran announced it would resume its nuclear enrichment program. The agency is to deliver its report on the latest developments in Iran to the Security Council March 6.

Mr. Annan says he will work with member states to find a solution to the crisis but he appears to favor negotiations over the threat of Security Council action. "What is important is that both sides have said negotiations are not dead, negotiations are not over, and they are prepared to talk, and I would urge them to continue. In the meantime, it would be important that no steps are taken that would escalate the already tense situation. And I hope Iran will continue to freeze its activities, the way they are now, to allow talks to go forward, to allow them to pursue the Russian offer, and to allow negotiations with the European Three and the Russians to come back to the table," he said.

China and Russia are also pushing to defuse the impasse through negotiations.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Andrey Denisov, says strong measures such as Security Council-imposed sanctions will not yield a peaceful and workable solution. "Our preference is engagement, not pressure, but engagement. Of course, to make that engagement effective and workable, we need some clear, and acceptable by a majority of players, framework. Such a framework is nonproliferation, the restart of negotiations, a moratorium on all enrichment activities, and the disclosure of compliance with IAEA procedures and criteria, disclosure of all undeclared activities in a proper way and in a proper forum," he said.

Denisov says he expects the Russian proposal on the enrichment of uranium for Iran's nuclear power station to be a key element of talks with high level Iranians in Moscow beginning February 16.