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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kiriyenko Says Iran Ready for Deep Talks

The head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency said Friday that Iran was ready for detailed discussions on the proposal to conduct Iran's uranium enrichment in Russia.

Iran "considers our proposal extremely interesting and is prepared for detailed discussions," agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko told President Vladimir Putin in televised remarks Friday.

"Our Iranian partners should come here in the near future, and talks will take place constantly," Kiriyenko said.

He did not give a specific date for the visit. But officials earlier had said an Iranian delegation was expected to travel to Russia for talks on the initiative around Feb. 16.

The proposal, under which uranium would be enriched in Russia for use in Iranian reactors, is aimed at overcoming concerns that Iran could enrich its own uranium to higher levels for use in nuclear weapons.

The United States and the European Union have backed the Russian proposal as a way out of the deadlock over Iran's nuclear program. International pressure on Iran has mounted over the past two weeks since Iran removed United Nations-placed seals on its uranium-enrichment facility in Natanz.

Western countries are pushing for Iran to be referred to the UN Security Council over the matter, a move that could bring the imposition of sanctions. Russia and China have held back from that call.

Russia put the proposal forward last year, and the Iranian response has been mixed, with some officials saying the enrichment must be done at home. However, Iranian Ambassador Gholamreza Ansari said last week that "the Iranian government is looking attentively at the proposal, but it needs time."

German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that Iran had sent a message to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier during his trip to Cairo last week offering to revive talks on the Russian proposal. According to the report, Iran requested that China also be included in the venture, which foresees uranium being enriched for Tehran in Russia.

A European diplomat, meanwhile, said Saturday that Russia was unlikely to support the draft resolution that refers Iran to the UN Security Council unless it is softened.

The so-called EU3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- began circulating the draft resolution to key members of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency in the past week. The IAEA's 35-nation board of governors was expected to vote on the resolution at an emergency meeting on Feb. 2.

But the EU3 diplomat said the Russians objected to language in the draft that suggested Iran was a threat to world peace and paved the way for a so-called Chapter Seven resolution at the Security Council. "In order to get the Russians on board, we need to get a new draft of the resolution," the diplomat said.

Chapter Seven resolutions are binding under international law and enforceable with sanctions and in some circumstances military action. Non-Chapter Seven resolutions are widely viewed as rhetorical.

The diplomat said the Americans and British were determined to get a Chapter Seven resolution at the Security Council and that it was unclear whether the Europeans would be willing to soften the language of the draft.

(AP, Reuters)