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. Russian envoy pursues Iran nuclear compromise
TEHRAN (AFP) Nov 12, 2005
The head of Russia's Security Council was in Tehran Saturday to sound out Iranian officials on a deal aimed at averting an escalation in Iran's nuclear standoff with the West.

Igor Ivanov started the day meeting with Iran's nuclear chief Ali Larijani, who had hinted Friday at the possibility of a solution.

He was also due to speak with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and other senior figures, amid speculation Russia might conduct sensitive nuclear fuel work on Iran's behalf.

Iran said Friday it still wanted to conduct the work on its own territory but was willing to discuss its uranium being enriched abroad.

"What is important for Iran is to enrich (uranium) on its soil," local media quoted Larijani as saying.

He said he had not received any formal proposal for enrichment abroad, but that if one were offered, "we will discuss it."

On his arrival Friday, Ivanov said "the Russian government will have a certain number of discussions with Iranian officials in order to reach a better solution.

"I hope we will reach a common point of view," he added, without confirming whether he was bringing any proposal with him.

Under one reportedly being floated, Iran would be allowed to carry out an initial step in making nuclear fuel -- converting uranium ore into the uranium hexafluoride gas that is the feedstock for making enriched uranium.

But enrichment itself would be done in Russia under an offer said to be under consideration by the European Union and the United States.

Ivanov's visit comes ahead of a November 24 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board, which will consider referring Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

In September, the UN nuclear watchdog found Iran in non-compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, paving the way for sending the matter to the council.

Russia, which is veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, has a lucrative contract to build Iran's first nuclear power reactor.

Moscow staunchly backs Iran's right to a civilian nuclear energy programme. The United States has alleged that the effort is a cover to develop weapons, something Tehran roundly denies.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied on Thursday that Washington and Brussels had agreed on any proposal.

"There is no US-European proposal to the Iranians. I want to say that categorically. There isn't and there won't be. We are not parties to these negotiations and we don't intend to become parties to the negotiations."

The New York Times said Washington had agreed with Britain, France and Germany, which are negotiating with Iran on behalf of the European Union, to make a last-ditch offer that would allow Tehran to maintain very small-scale nuclear activities.

Iran triggered the latest standoff in August when it effectively broke off negotiations with the EU-3 on a package of incentives for restraining its nuclear plans and resumed conversion activities it had suspended a year ago November.

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