Saturday, April 22, 2006

Iran Says Has "Basic" Enrichment Deal with Russia

Alireza Ronaghi, Reuters:
Iran's ambassador to the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Saturday that Iran had a basic deal to enrich uranium in a joint venture in Russia but said details were still being worked out, Iranian state radio reported.

Russia has offered to enrich uranium for Iran to allay concerns that Tehran could use domestically-produced enriched uranium to make nuclear bombs.

But progress on the deal has been hindered by Iran's refusal to bow to international demands that it halt all home-grown enrichment work. A "basic agreement" on enrichment with Russia was previously announced by Iran in February but talks subsequently appeared to stall. READ MORE

Ali-Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said a full agreement was now close in reach.

"He ... announced the basic agreement on a joint uranium enrichment firm on Russian soil and said that there are only some issues regarding technical, legal and financial matters that need more assessment or exchange of ideas," radio quoted Soltanieh as saying from Russia.

Western nations, who are threatening to press for U.N. sanctions, accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons and insist Iran stops enrichment, which has military and civilian uses. Iran says it only wants to produce electricity.

Moscow, while joining Washington and European powers in calling on Iran to end enrichment, has made it clear it would not at this stage back imposing sanctions on the Islamic state.


Iran announced earlier this month that it had produced its first batch of enriched uranium and was pressing ahead with plans to produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale.

Ali Hoseinitash, a deputy secretary on Iran's Supreme National Security Council, rejected any suspension of Iran's nuclear work, which Iran considers a national right, state television reported earlier on Saturday.

"We are seeking to choose the right paths and to solve the problems (in Iran's nuclear case) by some sort of negotiation and understanding. However if reaching those paths comes on the condition of handing over our rights, it will not take place in the current situation," television quoted Hoseinitash as saying.

Soltanieh was also quoted by the radio announcer as saying Iran would issue tenders next month for two nuclear power stations, in addition to one being built with Russian help near the southern port city of Bushehr.

"All countries can take part (in the tender)," he was quoted as saying.

It was not immediately clear if Soltanieh meant the tender would be announced in May or in the next Iranian month which starts on May 22.

Moscow on Thursday rejected a request from the United States for its engineers to halt work on the Bushehr nuclear power station, Iran's first, which is due to be completed later this year.