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. Halt uranium conversion 'without delay,' Russia tells Iran
MOSCOW (AFP) Aug 09, 2005
Russia, the main foreign partner in Iran's effort to develop atomic energy, called Tuesday on Tehran to suspend "without delay" its nuclear fuel conversion work, saying this would not undermine its civilian nuclear power program.

"The wise decision would be to stop work that has begun on uranium conversion without delay," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Russia's appeal came as the UN nuclear watchdog went into emergency session in Vienna to consider Iran's resumption of nuclear fuel work which has raised concerns that Tehran was secretly trying to pursue a nuclear weapons program.

The Russian statement said: "We are convinced that the situation that has arisen now has not gone beyond the point of no return. With goodwill it can be corrected."

But Tehran should immediately halt its nuclear fuel work and continue to work closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) "to resolve remaining question over Iran's nuclear program," it added.

The statement added that while Iran had "unfortunately" resumed work on converting uranium, it could stop this again without harming its efforts to develop a nuclear energy program for civilian use.

"We think that Iran could definitely maintain the moratorium without any damage to the realization of its nuclear energy program," the statement added.

Russia plays a crucial role in Iran's nuclear efforts and has led the project for construction of Iran's first nuclear power station at Bushehr.

Earlier this year, Russia's top nuclear official visited Tehran, where he obtained agreement from Iranian officials for the return to Russia of all spent nuclear fuel from the Bushehr plant.

Although Russia is anxious to pursue its work on the 800-million-dollar Bushehr project, and has evoked the possibility of helping Iran build other nuclear power plants in the future, it has also steadily insisted that Tehran respect its IAEA and nuclear Non-Prolifereation Treaty engagements.

On February 28, the day after he returned to Moscow after signing the deal with Tehran on return of spent nuclear fuel rods, Alexander Rumyantsev, the head of Russia's atomic energy agency, said Russia had tried to show Iran that uranium enrichment would be economically "ruinous" for it.

"There are proven scientific documents which use mathematical calculations to show that for a country with fewer than eight or 10 nuclear reactor blocs, each capable of generating 1,000 megawatts, development of its own nuclear cycle is not just useless but ruinous," Rumyantsev said.

"We have explained this to the Iranians and they are closely studying these documents," he added.

Iran has insisted that it has a right to pursue uranium enrichment activity within the parameters of a peaceful nuclear energy program, an assertion that Russia has acknowledged as valid.

Uranium conversion is a step before enrichment, which produces the fuel used in nuclear power plants, or in sufficient concentration, the core for a nuclear bomb.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on June 25 that Russia was prepared to continue its nuclear cooperation with Iran following the victory of hardliner Mahmood Ahmadinejad in presidential elections, but would fulfill its obligations to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation.

"We are ready to continue cooperation with Iran in the atomic energy sector, while taking into account our international obligations in the area of non-proliferation, (and) to cooperate on finding a mutually acceptable political solution to existing questions," Putin said in a statement.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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