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Russian, Iranian Officials Say Nuclear Talks to Continue


Russian and Iranian officials are discounting reports of failure after two days of talks in Moscow ended without Iran accepting a Russian compromise proposal. The plan, supported by the West, is seen as a last chance to keep Iran from being referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible punitive sanctions over its nuclear program.

After only one hour in session, Russian television broadcast images of the Iranian delegation's motorcade leaving the compound where the latest round of closed-door talks were taking place. Monday's opening round lasted more than five hours, but also ended without word of progress.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quick to echo Iranian officials in the view that the talks were not a failure as he says further discussions are planned.

But neither Lavrov, nor the Iranians, have offered a specific timeframe.

Alexander Pikayev is the Director of Disarmament and Conflict Resolution at Moscow's Institute for World Economic and International Relations. He told VOA he saw no reason to hesitate in labeling the talks a failure.

"Yesterday, there were some expectations that today probably the sides would be able to reach some sort of agreement," he said. "However, the early departure of the Iranian delegation demonstrates that negotiations were not completed successfully."

The Iranian delegation is to return to Tehran and is expected to meet with the head of Russia's atomic energy agency -Rosatom - Sergei Kiriyenko, beginning this Thursday.

Kiriyenko is going to Tehran, in part, to inspect the Bushehr nuclear reactor Russia is helping Iran to build. But some experts suggest that the talks on the compromise proposal could continue on the sidelines of his visit.

There has been no official confirmation of such a plan. And analyst Pikayev says he is skeptical that there is much more Russia can do to maneuver a deal with the Iranians, in order to stave off threatened UN Security Council action.

"I am not sure that I am (an) optimist because I think the probability of referral to the U.N. Security Council is very high," he said.

But Pikayev acknowledges that both sides have until March 6th before the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna meets to determine whether to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council in New York for possible punitive sanctions over its nuclear program.

Iranian officials took a tough stance going into this week's talks in Moscow, saying Iran would not give up its right to develop civilian nuclear energy. But Europe and the United States suspect Tehran of trying to develop nuclear weapons and want to see Iran resume its moratorium on uranium enrichment.

The Russian plan under discussion aims to ease western concerns by enriching Iran's sensitive uranium on Russian soil to ensure that it is not diverted for weapons development.