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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov Questions Iran's Claim

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov voiced skepticism Tuesday about Iran's announcement of a dramatic expansion of its uranium enrichment effort, saying Russia had yet to receive confirmation of the claim from the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA.

Iran said Monday that it had begun operating 3,000 centrifuges -- nearly 10 times the previously known number -- in defiance of the United Nations' demands that it halt its nuclear program or face increased sanctions.

Moscow was unaware, however, of "any recent technological breakthroughs in the Iranian nuclear program that would change the format of its enrichment effort," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement.

"We haven't got a confirmation yet that they have actually begun uranium enrichment at the new cascades," of centrifuges, Lavrov told reporters.

In the enrichment process, uranium gas is pumped into centrifuges, which spin and purify the gas. Enriched to a low degree, the result is fuel for a reactor, but to a high degree, it creates material for a nuclear warhead.

The United States and its allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed on Monday that his country had "joined the nuclear club of nations and can produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale."

"We have heard the Iranian president's statement and adopted a serious attitude to what is going on in relation to the Iranian nuclear program," Lavrov said Tuesday. "But we would like to proceed from facts, not from emotional political gestures."

President Vladimir Putin's foreign policy aide, Sergei Prikhodko, told reporters that the Kremlin regretted Teheran's silence to Moscow's efforts to defuse the tensions around its nuclear program. Russia, however, "has not given up" and will continue its efforts, he said.

Both Prikhodko and Kamynin urged Tehran to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

AP, MT