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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian expert cautious about Iran nuclear fuel response

RIA Novosti


MOSCOW, October 29 (RIA Novosti) - Iran may be making positive noises about a draft agreement on nuclear fuel, but the international community must not relax yet, a senior Russian expert warned on Thursday.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement on the UN-drafted deal, designed to help allay Western fears over Iran's controversial nuclear program, was later on Thursday followed by Tehran's formal response to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

"There have been [uranium] enrichment proposals in Russia and France, also involving the U.S., but the Iranian authorities backtracked on their previous [positive] statements, insisting on their own enrichment activities," said Yelena Melkuyan, a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Oriental Studies Institute.

Iran's Arabic-language channel Al-Alam reported that the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA had delivered the response to the Vienna-based agency. Ali Asghar Soltanieh was reported to have said that Iran's recommendations should be taken into account during further discussions. He did not elaborate.

The draft agreement proposed by IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei would have Iran send out about 80% of its known 1.5 metric tons of low-enriched uranium to Russia, where it would be enriched, and to France to convert it into fuel plates for a research reactor in Tehran.

Iranian media have said Tehran will accept the framework of the deal, but will also demand changes to it.

"Iran has pursued this policy recently, giving promises and backtracking on them later," Melkuyan said, adding that further international efforts were needed to pressure Iran.

The nuclear fuel deal was proposed following the October 11 talks between Iran and six world powers in Geneva, where Iran also agreed to allow UN inspectors access to its new enrichment facility.

Western powers have called for harsher sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its uranium enrichment activities, suspecting the country of pursuing a covert weapons program. Tehran has denied the suspicions saying it needs enrichment technology to generate electricity.

"Fortunately, conditions have been created for nuclear cooperation at an international level," Ahmadinejad said on Thursday in comments on the draft agreement broadcast on state television.

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