Thursday, December 29, 2005

Iran, Russia agree to nuclear talks-diplomat

Top Iranian and Russian officials agreed on Thursday to hold talks on a Russian proposal aimed a resolving Tehran's nuclear standoff with the West, an Iranian diplomat close to the talks said.

The proposal, which is backed by Washington and the European Union, involves the creation of a joint Iranian-Russian company to enrich uranium in Russia.

The plan has been put forward by Moscow in a bid to allay international concerns that Iran could manufacture highly- enriched uranium on its own soil to build atomic weapons.

Iran says it only wants to enrich uranium to a low-grade, suitable for use in atomic power reactors.

Iranian officials had previously said they would reject any plan which denied Iran the right to enrich uranium on its own soil.

But, in a sudden change of tone, a senior official had said on Wednesday Tehran would "seriously and enthusiastically" study the Russian plan.

The diplomat, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the agreement for talks on the proposal came during a telephone conversation between Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov.

Larijani told Ivanov there were "ambiguities and problems" with the Russian plan but that "the outline of the proposal can be reviewed," the diplomat said.

Ivanov agreed to send a delegation to Tehran led by one of his deputies for further talks, the diplomat said, without specifying when they would take place. READ MORE

The diplomat added that both sides had noted that their talks were unrelated to Iran's ongoing nuclear negotiations with the EU trio of Britain, Germany and France.