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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Urges Iran to Halt Uranium Work at Isfahan

Hardening its stance toward Iran, Russia on Tuesday urged the country to halt uranium conversion work immediately and continue cooperating with the UN nuclear watchdog.

Russia's contacts with Iran -- including construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant -- have angered Washington, which says Tehran could use Moscow's know-how to develop nuclear arms.

"It would be a wise decision to immediately stop the resumed work on uranium conversion and continue close cooperation with the IAEA to remove all remaining questions relating to the Iranian nuclear program," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The IAEA is the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog.

Tehran resumed work at a uranium conversion plant in Isfahan on Monday, fanning Western fears it may be seeking nuclear weapons and defying EU warnings that it could be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

The West could now call for sanctions on the grounds that Iran illegally hid its uranium enrichment program, including a expansive underground enrichment plant at Natanz, the existence of which was revealed by exiled dissidents in 2002.

"We do not think that the current situation is irreversible," the Foreign Ministry said. "Russia is ready to cooperate with all other countries to improve the situation. At the same time, it is important that all parties involved refrain from hasty, uncalculated decisions that could push the situation toward further tension."

The ministry added there was no technical need for Iran to convert its own uranium since Moscow has agreed to supply all the necessary nuclear fuel for Iran's sole, Russian-built atomic reactor near the port of Bushehr.

The Bushehr power plant is due to go into operation next year.

Meanwhile, the IAEA held a crisis meeting on Tuesday to try to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear program. Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA, Sirus Naseri, said Iran was willing to continue negotiations with the European Union to end the standoff but only on its terms.

Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said he had new ideas to resolve the nuclear standoff with the West and would present them once his government took office.