Russia's Lavrov says no proof Iran working on nuclear weapons
MOSCOW, February 25 (RIA Novosti) - There is no hard proof that Iran is working on nuclear weapons, but Tehran has to clarify several key issues on its nuclear program to avoid fresh international action, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.
Iran's recent move to begin enriching uranium to 20% sparked a new wave of international criticism, with the U.S. leading calls for new harsher sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Western powers suspect that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at making weapons, while Tehran claims it needs enriched uranium for civilian energy purposes.
"There is no evidence that Iran has made a decision to produce nuclear weapons," Lavrov said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
He added that Iran had failed to properly cooperate with international organizations over concerns about its nuclear program and said that if the situation persists "I cannot rule out that the UN Security Council will have to consider the situation once again."
Lavrov also said that sanctions were unlikely to be effective.
"If we go with the sanctions, we'll not go beyond the goal of our purpose of defending the nonproliferation regime. We don't want the nonproliferation regime to be used for ... strangling Iran, or taking some steps to deteriorate the situation [and] the living standards of people in Iran," he said.
Lavrov acknowledged Iran's right to carry out nuclear activities, but urged the country to respect its international responsibilities and answer all the questions posed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
He assured reporters that the UN nuclear watchdog continued to monitor Iran's nuclear activities, including the Islamic country's recent uranium enrichment program.
"Of course, the agency also reports traditionally that it cannot be 100% sure that Iran does not have some secret nuclear activities," Lavrov said.
He also called on Iran to cooperate with the IAEA.
Iran has already rejected an IAEA plan under which the Islamic Republic was to ship out its low-enriched uranium to Russia for further enrichment and subsequently send it to France for processing into fuel rods.
Tehran has suggested it could consider a swap of its low-enriched uranium for 20%-enriched uranium, but that the exchange should be simultaneous and would have to take place on its own territory.
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