Iran says Russia's atomic proposal still on table
TEHRAN, Apr 30 (Reuters) Iran today said it would be willing to discuss Moscow's proposal to move uranium enrichment to Russia if the U.N. Security Council were to send its case back to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
''The Russian proposal is still on the table,'' Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a news conference.
''Within this framework it is normal that we will review different proposals on when it is carried out and under what conditions,'' he added.
Iran, which says its nuclear programme is for energy not weapons, could face a new resolution at the U N Security Council after the IAEA reported on Friday Iran has hampered its checks and rebuffed requests to stop making nuclear fuel.
U N ambassadors from the United States, Britain and France were expected to begin drafting a resolution tomorrow they hope to introduce within a week which would obligate Iran to comply with the council's demands.
With the clock ticking toward possible Security Council action, Tehran has remained defiant and said it would continue to enrich uranium and develop its atomic energy programme.
But in the past two days Iran has suggested steps to ease the crisis.
Yesterday Iran offered to allow spot checks by IAEA inspectors if the Security Council dropped the case. On Sunday, Iran said it would consider Moscow's plan under which uranium for use in Iranian power stations would be enriched in Russia.
''Research enrichment has started and it is going on and it is irreversible,'' Reza said.
''We want to see to it that industrial enrichment and industrial production should come from the heart of negotiations,'' he added.
All previous negotiations on the Russian plan broke down because Iran insisted nuclear fuel production should take place on its soil, although it would consider an additional joint venture in Russia.
There was no sign from Asefi that Iran was planning to make any concession on the crux issue of where the enrichment was to take place.
After the news conference, Asefi told Reuters this offer of a return to negotiations with Russia was contingent on Iran's case being shipped back to the nuclear watchdog.
Western diplomats dismiss the idea that the Security Council could drop the case, arguing Iran must cool tensions by obeying U.N.
demands that it stop enriching uranium.
The United States, backed by Britain and France, support limited sanctions if Iran fails to back down. Russia and China have been far more guarded on this issue.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki on Saturday to suspend enriching uranium and ensure full-scale cooperation with the IAEA.
''The Russian side reiterated there is an urgent need for Iran to take concrete steps to restore trust in its nuclear programme,'' Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The foreign ministers of the five permanent members will meet, along with Germany, on May 9, the United States said.
REUTERS CH KN1530