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Iran's Nuclear Program is Key Issue as Israeli Leader Visits Moscow - 2003-11-03

Iran's Nuclear Program is Key issue as Israeli Leader Visits Moscow Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is on a two-day official visit to Moscow, is expected to urge Russian President Vladimir Putin to keep up the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

Israeli officials say Russia's help in building a nuclear power plant in Iran tops the agenda of talks between Prime Minister Sharon and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Israel wants Russia to halt work on the plant, or at least insist that Tehran allow United Nations' inspection of its nuclear facilities.

Iran recently announced that it would allow closer inspections, and claims it has nothing to fear because its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes.

On Monday, a senior Iranian official was due to arrive in Moscow, where he was expected to announce when Iran would sign the additional protocol to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty that would obligate Tehran to open its nuclear facilities to unannounced inspections.

But the visit by the head of the Iranian Security Council, Hasan Ruhani, was abruptly canceled without explanation.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon also wants Russia to withdraw its proposal to have the United Nations formally adopt the so-called road map for peace. Russia, which is one of the authors of the road map, introduced such a resolution in the U.N. Security Council last week.

Israel objects on the grounds that a formal resolution would put pressure on Israel without guarantees the Palestinians would have to reciprocate. The United States also disagrees with Russia's decision to introduce the resolution.

The road map was drawn up by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. But it has not made much progress in halting violence in the Middle East.