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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Straw Urges Iran to Take Putin's Offer

APAli Larijani, right, pictured Sunday in Tehran with Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, was to arrive in Moscow late Tuesday.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw urged Tehran on Tuesday to seriously consider Russia's offer to enrich Iran's uranium in an effort to end its nuclear standoff with countries that want to refer it to the UN Security Council.

But Straw also said that he hoped the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, would decide during its emergency meeting on Feb. 2-3 to refer the nuclear standoff to the UN Security Council.

Straw said the European allies were open to resuming talks with Iran if it suspended uranium enrichment activities. He urged Iranian leaders to "look much more seriously" at a compromise proposal offered by President Vladimir Putin. Putin has proposed having Iran's uranium enriched in Russia, then returned to Iran for use in the country's reactors -- a compromise that would provide more oversight and ease tensions.

But haggling has continued over the specifics of the proposal, including Tehran's proposal to have China involved in the Russian enrichment process. Iranian Ambassador to Russia Gholamreza Ansari said Tuesday that Iran was waiting for "several clarifications" from Moscow regarding the Russian proposal, Itar-Tass reported.

A European official said Monday that the Iranian and Russian officials would discuss the possibility of allowing Iran to conduct small-scale experimental enrichment itself if it agreed to move all industrial production to Russia. The official demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing confidential details of the negotiations.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, was to meet with Russian officials in Moscow on Tuesday evening.

In a televised interview in Tehran before his departure, Larijani said Iran was ready for compromise but dismissed Western concerns about the country's nuclear activities.

"We have not closed the path to compromise," he told the BBC. "Talks in which they want to impose certain pressures will not be constructive."

"I am surprised they are so sensitive about nuclear research in Iran," he said, according to an English translation of his comments. "We've said this before. Our research is on a laboratory scale, a small scale. If they want guarantees of no diversion of nuclear fuel, we can reach a formula acceptable to both sides in talks."

Also Tuesday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari met in Moscow with the head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Sergei Kiriyenko.

Ending a 15-month commitment, Iran removed IAEA seals from equipment Jan. 10 and announced it would restart experiments, including what it described as small-scale enrichment -- a move that led the so-called EU3 to call for the Feb. 2 emergency board session.

While the Europeans believe they have enough votes to get Iran hauled to the Security Council on Feb. 2, they want broad support, including from key developing countries as well as from skeptics Russia and China.

Meanwhile, a group of Russian scientists said that enriching uranium for Iran's nuclear program in Russia would not necessarily prevent Tehran from making nuclear weapons.

"Any sovereign country with an atomic power plant on its territory can doubtless develop nuclear weapons, and Russia's offer to enrich uranium does not make a principal difference," said Valery Volkov, a senior scientist at the All-Russia Scientific Research Institute of Atomic Machine-Building.

He spoke at a news conference discussing technology designed to create nuclear power without using fissile materials.