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Archive for Monday, March 13, 2006

Iranian leaders rule out deal with Russia

March 13, 2006

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— Iran ruled out a Russian proposal aimed at easing tensions over its nuclear program Sunday, drawing criticism from a senior lawmaker in Moscow who said the decision destroyed the last chance for compromise before the U.N. Security Council takes on the issue this week.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also warned that Iran is considering large-scale uranium enrichment at home as a response to the International Atomic Energy Agency's decision to refer Tehran to the Security Council.

However, Tehran did back away from a threat to use oil as an economic weapon if the council should impose sanctions.

Russia had sought to persuade Iran to move its enrichment program to Russian territory, which would allow closer international monitoring. Iran reached a basic agreement with Moscow on the plan, but the details were never worked out.

"The Russian proposal is not on our agenda any more," Asefi told reporters. "Circumstances have changed. We have to wait and see how things go with the five veto-holding countries (on the council)."

The comments effectively meant the Russian proposal was dead after the nuclear watchdog agency referred Iran to the Security Council, which can impose political and economic sanctions, last week.

A Western diplomat, who insisted on anonymity, said a new meeting among the permanent council members was planned today to look at a revised draft statement.

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