Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow has made no compromise offer to deal with Iran's nuclear program. He spoke after talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dominated by the Iranian nuclear issue, which is now before the International Atomic Energy Agency governing board in Vienna.
The Russian Foreign Minister came to Washington amid press reports that Moscow had made a compromise offer to Iran that would allow it to continue some small-scale uranium enrichment activity, which the United States strongly opposes.
But at a joint press appearance with Secretary Rice, Lavrov appeared to completely dismiss the notion of a policy rift with Washington over Iran, saying flatly there was no compromise proposal and that there would not be one:
"There is no compromise new Russian proposal," he said. "All our contacts with Iran, with the European troika, with the United States, with China and with others including the director-general of the IAEA, were about finding a way to implement the February decision by the board of governors of the IAEA It is only in that context that our well-known suggestion to have a joint venture to enrich uranium on Russian territory to provide for the fuel needs of Iran was made."
Press accounts from the IAEA Vienna meeting Monday indicated that in the context of its uranium enrichment plan, Russia had proposed that Iran be allowed to continue a small-scale enrichment project for research purposes.
Those reports triggered a sharp response from the Bush administration, which said even a small enrichment program would allow Iran to master techniques needed to build a nuclear weapon.
In her comments with Lavrov, Secretary Rice said any scenario for a resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue would require Iran to return to the enrichment freeze it committed to in 2004 with Britain, France and Germany but reneged on last year:
"I think the United States has been very clear that enrichment and reprocessing on Iranian soil is not acceptable because of the proliferation risk," Rice said. "And I will let the minister speak for himself, but the Russians did not tell us of any new proposal they have made the Iranians concerning anything but the February 4th (IAEA) resolution. We still hope that this can be resolved through negotiations, through the IAEA. But it is going to require the Iranians to suspend their activities, to reenter the moratorium, and to do a number of other steps, which are outlined in that February 4th resolution."
The IAEA board in February found Iran to be in violation of its non-proliferation commitments and agreed in principle to refer the issue to the Security Council.
The United States, which contends that Iran - despite its denials - has a secret nuclear weapons program, has long sought a U.N. referral. However, in her remarks with her Russian counterpart, the secretary again was non-committal about possible punitive action against Iran in the Security Council.
She said there is still time for Tehran to avoid such a move, and again stressed U.S. support for the Russian offer, under which Moscow would furnish the fuel for Iranian civilian power plants, and take it back for reprocessing afterwards.