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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran set to address all concerns on nuclear program soon - Russia

RIA Novosti

23/01/2008 10:30 MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - Iran is ready to answer all questions concerning its nuclear program within the next few weeks, Russia's foreign minister said on Wednesday, a day after six-nation talks.

The five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany agreed at talks in Berlin on a draft for new measures against the Islamic Republic, strengthening two previous rounds of sanctions but falling short of the punitive steps proposed by Washington. The draft will be submitted to the Security Council in the next few weeks.

Sergei Lavrov said: "Iran has given its assurances that within the next two or three weeks it is ready to resolve the issues" relating to its previous nuclear activities.

The diplomatic standoff between Iran and the West began almost six years ago over suspicions that Tehran's nuclear work is a cover for an atomic weapons program. Since then, two rounds of sanctions have been imposed - in December 2006 and March 2007.

The Russian diplomat said the new draft contains "additional measures against Iran, but they are not harsh sanctions. They are formulated as recommendations for all countries to take caution when developing contacts with Iran, to make sure that the non-proliferation regime is not violated," Sergei Lavrov said.

He said the draft voiced support for efforts by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to clarify all aspects of Tehran's nuclear program.

Russia and China, veto-wielding UN Security Council members which have strong commercial ties with Iran, have consistently opposed stringent sanctions against the country.

Late last year IAEA issued a generally positive report on Tehran's cooperation with IAEA inspectors, and a U.S. intelligence community report stated that the country had dropped nuclear weapons research several years ago.

Lavrov said the draft resolution "clearly confirms that if Iran agrees with proposals made by the six nations, direct negotiations will be launched to settle all issues on the Iranian nuclear program - direct negotiations involving the six nations, including the United States."

He said that as well as concerns over Iran's nuclear program, such talks would also focus on ensuring Iran's rights to peaceful nuclear energy, and the expansion of economic cooperation with Tehran in the nuclear sphere and regional security.

Before the draft is submitted to the Security Council, amendments and proposals will be added by other UN Security Council members, Lavrov said.

On Tuesday, Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said the country would continue uranium enrichment even if the Security Council passes further sanctions, and reiterated his country's legitimate right to nuclear technology.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said late last year that Iran would gain "a greatness that is 100 times more precious than nuclear energy," if it could withstand pressure from the West over its nuclear program.



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