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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Urges Iran to Keep Moratorium

APIran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, left, meeting Kislyak on Sunday.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia was working to ensure that Iran continue its moratorium on enriching uranium until talks can be held between Moscow and Tehran.

Russia, a close Iranian ally, expressed concern after Tehran removed seals on its nuclear research facilities Tuesday, allowing it to resume research on nuclear fuel technology. Western countries are concerned that Tehran might be aiming to use a civilian energy program as a cover for producing nuclear weapons.

"We are expressing concern over recent information that Iran has expressed the intention soon to renew a series of activities tied to enriching uranium, in spite of the moratorium that was agreed between Iran and the European countries," Lavrov said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin and other members of the government.

Iran said its action Tuesday was to prepare for fuel research only and that it was not resuming work to produce nuclear fuel.

However, the International Atomic Energy Agency later said that Iran's plans included enriching uranium on a small scale.

In a statement Tuesday evening, the Russian Foreign Ministry said a moratorium on enrichment was "necessary for the resolution of the problems remaining over the Iranian nuclear program," Interfax reported.

Earlier Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said that a Russian delegation told Iranian officials over the weekend that Moscow's offer to enrich uranium on Russian territory and then ship it back to Iran to fuel nuclear power stations still stood and that the Russian side was waiting for an answer, Interfax reported.

That proposal, backed by the European Union and the United States, is meant to ensure that Iran could not misuse the enrichment process to produce nuclear weapons.

"Should our Iranian colleagues be interested, we are ready to develop the joint project in order to solve Iran's energy problems," Kislyak said.

Lavrov said an Iranian delegation would pay a return visit to Moscow next month to continue the discussions, Interfax reported. Russia is taking "active measures," meanwhile, to encourage Iran to stick with its moratorium on enrichment, he said in televised comments.

Kislyak said the talks between a delegation led by Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Valentin Sobolev and officials in Tehran had been "serious, professional, detailed and honest."

"We stated our concern over Tehran's intention to resume nuclear research and development," Kislyak said.

Lavrov said Moscow was coordinating its actions with Germany, Britain and France, Interfax reported.

Enrichment is a process that can produce nuclear fuel for reactors or atomic weapons.

Vyacheslav Nikonov, the head of the Politika Foundation, a think tank, said that Iran's decision to resume nuclear research was "especially unpleasant for us [Russians], because it was made at a time when the Russian delegation was in Iran negotiating nuclear issues," Interfax reported.