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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev Bristles at Iran’s New Plant

President Dmitry Medvedev expressed serious concern about Iran’s construction of a new uranium enrichment plant and urged the country to prove it didn’t seek to build a nuclear bomb, in a statement that brings Moscow closer to the West in assessing the threat.

Medvedev spoke after Iran confirmed Friday that it had for years been building an underground plant to enrich uranium near the city of Qom, even as the United Nations Security Council demands that Iran stop enriching uranium at the country’s first plant.

In what may increase tensions over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the country fired short-range missiles Sunday during a military exercise and was planning to fire medium-range and long-range missiles later Sunday and Monday.

Western nations have been trying to rein in Iran’s nuclear program, but Russia, which is building a nuclear power plant in Iran, has been reluctant to support imposing more sanctions on the country, instead calling for more talks.

In a shift of approach, Medvedev said Friday that Iran must urgently deliver proof of its peaceful intentions, suggesting that sanctions might not be a long way off if Iran doesn’t comply.

“The transpiring information that Iran has been building a new enrichment plant only strengthens our determination to achieve concrete and verifiable results in the near future,” Medvedev said in a statement.

The statement also called for international talks on Iran’s nuclear program. But Medvedev told reporters during a G20 summit in Pittsburg that should the negotiations fail, it would open the way for “other mechanisms.” He hinted earlier in the week that more sanctions might be “inevitable” for Iran under certain circumstances.

The Security Council has so far levied three sets of sanctions on Iran to punish it for refusing to freeze enrichment at its previously single, publicly known enrichment plant in Natanz, which is being monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Russia, a permanent Security Council member with veto power, has resisted further measures, saying it has seen no evidence to support U.S. assertions that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. China, another permanent Security Council member, has taken a stance similar to Russia’s.

In light of the new plant, Iranian ­negotiators will face tough questions when they meet with Security Council members on Wednesday in Geneva.

Iran’s construction of a second enrichment plant is proof that it is planning to use the fuel for military purposes, said Vladimir Yevseyev, a security analyst with the Institute of Global Economy and International Affairs.

“Having another enrichment facility raises the survivability of its nuclear infrastructure,” he said Sunday. “It has no other justification apart from a military one.”

The Kremlin must be disappointed by the news of the plant construction, Yevseyev said. “It brought it home once again that you can’t deal normally with Iran,” he said. “It turns out that the Americans were right.”

Iran’s nuclear expertise has already reached outside the country’s boundaries in a challenge to the nonproliferation cause.

Venezuelan Mining and Basic Industries Minister Rodolfo Sanz said Friday that Iran was helping his country search for uranium, and that initial evaluations suggest reserves are significant, The Associated Press reported.

Venezuela Science and Technology Minister Jesse Chacon denied that same day that Venezuela was working with Iran to search for uranium deposits, saying the partner was Russia. But he withdrew the denial on Saturday, AP said.

Asked about how Venezuela would use its uranium reserves, Chacon said they would be exploited to develop “nuclear energy for medicinal purposes, for peaceful purposes.”

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, speaking in an interview with Larry King on CNN on Thursday, said his country did not want to develop atomic weapons and would work with Russia on nuclear energy projects as part of a plan to diversify its energy needs.

Both Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are well known for their anti-U.S. rhetoric and have forged ties in everything from finance to factories, provoking concerns in Washington.