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Nuclear diplomacy picks up momentum

Atul Aneja

Iran and Russia to hold talks on Moscow's proposal on Monday

DUBAI: Iran and Russia will hold talks on February 20 to find ways to end the crisis revolving around the Iranian nuclear programme, ahead of the crucial board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on March 6. While describing the upcoming deliberations as "constructive," Iran has already said it had reservations about an existing Russian proposal to ease tensions. Russia has offered production of enriched uranium on its soil in a joint venture facility with Iran.

Backed by U.S.

The proposal has been backed by the United States and the European Union, as it promises to ensure that Iran is unable to divert enriched uranium for manufacturing atomic weapons. "The proposal has the potential of resolving the issue if its shortcomings and disadvantages are removed," said Iran's Ambassador to Russia, Gholam-Reza Ansari.

Iran's state runs Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted the diplomat as saying, "If the two countries' experts hold talks to discuss details of the offer they can undoubtedly find solutions to its shortcomings."

Earlier the English daily, Iran, published from Teheran quoted Iran's top negotiator at the nuclear talks Javad Vaidi as saying an Iranian delegation would visit Moscow for talks on February 20. He, however, added that Teheran would follow-up on the Russian proposal later.

Process

Iranian officials have said in the past they would be willing to allow Russia and some other countries to enrich uranium that it requires, provided the process of enrichment was carried out on Iranian soil.

Confirming the February 20 meeting, four days after it was originally scheduled, a Russian embassy official in Teheran, Vyacheslav Moshkalo said postponement had no particular significance and had been overblown by the media. China is also voicing fresh concern about the Iranian crisis.

Maintaining that dialogue should not be stalled, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said, "a solution through dialogue serves the interests of China, Iran and all parties concerned."

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