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Russia Joins Call for Iran to Halt Nuclear Program


Russia has joined Germany, France and the United States in calling for Iran to halt its nuclear program, one day after its president said Tehran had successfully enriched uranium for the first time. A supporter of Iran, Russia has been seeking a diplomatic solution to the nuclear stand-off with Tehran.

Russia's Foreign Ministry says Moscow considers Iran's latest step "wrong", and runs counter to U.N. resolutions on the issue.

Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said Russia was concerned by Tuesday's speech by Iran's president that Tehran has successfully enriched uranium.

Officially the enriched fuel is only meant to be used in Iran's nuclear energy program. But the United States and Europe believe the ultimate aim is to develop atomic weapons.

Russia has long tried to convince Iran to halt its attempts at uranium enrichment, and has proposed that the fuel it needs for nuclear reactors be enriched in Russia instead.

But while agreeing to discuss that idea, Iran has insisted it has the right to enrich its own uranium.

Russia is Iran's major supplier of nuclear-power technology, but has also added its voice to Western nations that have criticized Iran.

The Kremlin is firmly against any talk of possible military action, a point reiterated by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

Lavrov says he has heard reports in the media about possible U.S. military moves, but Russia believes this would only create another "hotbed of tension" in the Middle East.

Lavrov was referring to a New Yorker magazine article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that the Bush administration is reviewing possible bombing strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

While saying that "all options remain on the table", President Bush has dismissed the reports, which are attributed to an anonymous source.

Government officials in Germany, France, and Great Britain have also expressed concern about Iran's latest move.

In London a British Foreign Office spokesman said Iran "needs to get back into compliance, and their statements are not helpful."

The director of the IAEA, Mohammed El Baradei, is to visit Iran for talks aimed at resolving the stand-off.

The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran stop all enrichment by April 28, due to suspicion that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Uranium enrichment produces the fuel needed to power a nuclear energy reactor, it can also produce material for a nuclear warhead.