Russia has proposed developing nuclear fuel within its borders, delivering the enriched uranium to Iran and then retrieving the spent fuel, thus allowing Iran to run its civilian program, but not giving it the possible elements for a military effort.
Monday’s talks ended with both sides pledging to return to the negotiating table on Tuesday.
“It is too early to talk about results. The negotiations are continuing,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
But even as talks went on in Moscow, senior Iranian officials said Monday that any deal on Russia’s offer would not end Tehran’s research efforts on enriching uranium.
In Belgium, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki reiterated his country’s right to pursue civilian nuclear efforts, including the production of enriched uranium.
“If we reach some compromise … (on the Russian proposal), we continue our cooperation from where we are now. That is, the research department will continue its activity,” he said, according to Reuters.
Inside Iran, officials were even more outspoken.
“We will not step back one inch from our obvious right (to nuclear technology),” Iranian state television reported Ali Hosseinitash, the head of Iran’s delegation to Russia, as saying.
The United States and other Western nations have accused Iran, which pursued its nuclear effort in secret until its program was made public in the last year, of seeking nuclear technology for a weapons program.
On Monday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton remained skeptical of Iran’s sincerity in seeking a diplomatic solution.
“The Iranians will try to throw sand in everybody’s eyes, as they have for the last three years,” Bolton told reporters in New York. “We’ll see what results.”
Negotiators are working to reach some agreement before the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is set to report on Iran’s nuclear activities on March 6. If Iran is accused of violating earlier agreements with the IAEA it could be reported to the Security Council for possible sanctions.
“We hope very much from the Iranian side some movement will take place before that date,” European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said after meeting with the Iranian foreign minister. “If nothing happens, the Iranian government should know what may happen on March 6.”