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Russia: We are considering Iran’s nuclear offer

Russia says Iran’s proposal is under consideration, as time runs out for Moscow, Paris or Washington to accept Tehran’s conditions on a nuclear fuel deal.

“In early January, Tehran presented the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with additional proposals… We are considering them and are hoping to come to agreement,” Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said Friday.

Nesterenko’s comments came as the P5+1, five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany, prepared to meet in New York to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.

Russia hopes that, during the Saturday meeting, nuclear negotiators will be able to agree on the latest proposals Iran has presented regarding a plan to provide the country with further enriched uranium, said the spokesman.

Iran insists its nuclear program is solely for civilian purposes, rejecting Western claims that it intends to pursue a military agenda.

Israel, the US and their European allies continue to maneuver on the idea that Iran has a military nuclear program, despite contrary announcements made by the UN nuclear watchdog, the United States’ main spy agencies, and, more recently, comments made by Pentagon’s top intelligence official.

The two sides of the dispute came close to ending their standoff back in October, when representatives from Iran and three of the six powers gathered in Vienna to discuss a nuclear fuel deal.

However, the meeting did not quite end in success although both parties had accepted the general aspects of the deal.

The temporary breakdown in talks came when Russia, France and the US showed no inclination to appease Iran’s concerns over details of the agreement.

The draft deal required Iran to send most of its domestically-processed low-enriched uranium (LEU) out of the country for further refinement of up to 20 percent.

Iran needs the higher-grade fuel for use at the Tehran research reactor, which produces radioisotopes for medical purposes.

Iran refused to officially accept the proposal, as its concerns about the other side’s commitment to its obligations were not addressed.

Tehran wanted “concrete guarantees” that it would receive the promised fuel in exchange for the low-grade uranium it sends out of the country; based on the argument that Western powers had not carried out past commitments in several cases.

Meanwhile, Tehran set a two month deadline, which will end by February, for either of the supplier countries to accept that the fuel exchange be carried out in a two-staged simultaneous swap.

So far, the US has refused to heed Iran’s concerns, saying that the current craft offered to Tehran will not change.

US officials, such as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, insist that the Saturday meeting will focus on “exploring the kind and degree of sanctions that we should be pursuing” against Iran.

Russia and China, however, have been taking a quite different tone. Beijing had repeatedly asserted that the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program must end in a diplomatic way.

China’s ambassador to the UN has called for a diplomatic solution to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, saying that it is not the right time to impose new sanctions on Iran.

“This is not the right moment for sanctions,” Zhang Yesui, who currently chairs the UN Security Council, told reporters in New York earlier this month.

The Russian spokesman also made a similar call during the Friday press conference, urging relevant parties to exert more efforts in a search for mutually acceptable solutions to the issue.

“We believe that there is still some room for maneuvering on the negotiating track,” Nesterenko told a press briefing.

“Iran stated more than once that the country would launch the additional enrichment of its low-enriched uranium to 20 percent independently,” he said.

The spokesman was pointing to Iran’s warnings that it will be forced to produce the higher enriched uranium on its own if the deal is not sealed, as it is close to running out of fuel for the Tehran reactor.

Russia will be sending Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov to New York. China, however, has announced that a lower-ranking diplomat will be representing Beijing in the P5+1 talks.

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