December 25, 2005

Iran denies receiving Russian enrichment proposal

By Parinoosh Arami

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran on Sunday denied receiving a
proposal from Moscow to build a joint venture plant to enrich
uranium in Russia but said it was happy to continue
negotiations over its nuclear programme with the European

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it had
submitted a formal offer to Iran that would allow it to
establish a civilian nuclear programme but transfer enrichment
to Russia.

The plan is aimed at easing international concerns that
Tehran could make nuclear bombs from highly-enriched uranium.
Iran says it only wants to enrich uranium to a low-grade,
suitable for use in nuclear power reactors.

"We haven't received any written and definite proposal from
Russia yet," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi
told a weekly news conference.

"It is clear that we will review with a positive attitude
any plan or proposal that recognizes Iran's right for
enrichment on it own soil," he added, reiterating a stance
which EU diplomats have said amounts to a rejection of the
Russian plan.

Iranian nuclear negotiators met counterparts from the EU
trio of Britain, Germany and France in Vienna last week for the
first face-to-face talks for several months.

Both sides agreed to meet again in January. Asefi said
January 18 was a possible date for the next round of talks.

"What was achieved is that the negotiations will continue,
which is a step forward in itself," he said. "I believe that if
the Europeans respect Iran's rights there is room for further

"We don't want negotiations just for the sake of
negotiations we want negotiations to achieve our right to
(produce) nuclear fuel. Of course, we are ready to give
guarantees that we won't deviate from peaceful nuclear
activities," he added.

EU diplomats and arms control experts have expressed doubts
that the negotiations will resolve the nuclear standoff given
the two sides' positions.

Asefi said Iran believed the best solution would be for an
international consortium to carry out enrichment in Iran. But
Western nations are loathe to allow the Islamic Republic to
make nuclear fuel on its own soil.