Thursday, October 06, 2005

Russia won't join Iran nuclear talks

Vladimir Isachenkov, San Jose Mercury:
Russia's foreign minister on Thursday dismissed speculation that Moscow might join talks between Iran and European negotiators on Tehran's disputed nuclear program.

"As for relations between the European trio and Russia, we are not expecting any change in these relations. There is no need for that," Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters. READ MORE

"From the very beginning of the trio's work in its talks with Iran, Russia has closely interacted in this process and this cooperation is continuing now."

"We are ready to make our contribution to this process, working in parallel, to achieve a result that is in everyone's interest," Lavrov said.

His comments followed a meeting earlier in the day with International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei. Their talks apparently addressed ways of resuming the talks between Britain, Germany and France, negotiating on behalf of the European Union, and Iran, which collapsed in August after Iran resumed uranium reprocessing work.

Lavrov had strongly praised ElBaradei, Russian news agencies reported.

"You have recommended yourself as a thoughtful worker who is guided by the IAEA charter documents, in that way guaranteeing maximum efforts so that the agency's activities would not be politicized," Lavrov was quoted as saying by the RIA-Novosti news agency.

ElBaradei said he wanted to discuss creation of a system to ensure the peaceful uses of atomic energy and lower the risks of its improper use, RIA-Novosti reported.

ElBaradei said Wednesday he was optimistic the talks between Iran and the EU negotiators would resume within a month, but he voiced his belief that a third party was needed to provide a "face-saving" way out of the impasse. That comment, and the fact he made it in Moscow, had increased speculation that Russia might be used as an intermediary.

Washington says Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing a nuclear bomb, but Tehran insists its program is intended to produce electrical power.

Russia has said it shares the goal of preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear arms capability but differs on the tactics. Moscow has been at the center of the dispute since it is building a $800 million nuclear reactor in the Iranian city of Bushehr that is scheduled for launch by the end of 2006.

U.S. officials fear Iran could use technology provided for that plant for a weapons program.