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. Iran studying Russian nuclear proposal
TEHRAN (AFP) Dec 29, 2005
Iran is studying a Russian proposal for the Islamic republic to enrich uranium on Russian soil, a top national security official said Thursday, although commentators urged caution over a possible breakthrough.

Hossein Entezami, spokesman for Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told AFP that "Iran has received the Russian proposal and is examining it," the day after a senior official acknowledged the proposal for the first time.

"The new Russian proposal can be studied so that its economic, technical and scientific aspects will be clear," council member Javad Vaidi told the ISNA student news agency on Wednesday.

He said that the Russian proposal was based on the establishment of a "joint Iran-Russia company on Russian soil" for the enrichment of uranium, a key component of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Iran has up until now maintained that it would only look at proposals that accepted its right to conduct uranium enrichment on its own soil.

Iran's enrichment demands have proved controversial as in highly enriched form uranium can be used as the explosive core of a nuclear bomb. Tehran vehemently rejects US accusations it has a nuclear weapons programme.

But a Western observer in Tehran voiced caution over the declarations.

"This sign of openness is heading in the right direction, as long as it materialises," he said, calling Vaidi's declaration "an encouraging element, but not a breakthough".

Russia enjoys close ties with Iran and is currently helping build the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran.

Moscow's proposal attacks the key sticking point in talks between Iran and the European Union over Iran's nuclear programme, which the United States charges serves as cover for nuclear weapons ambitions.

Its proposal would allow Iran to conduct uranium enrichment outside the country in Russia, giving Iran access to the nuclear fuel cycle but providing a guarantee its nuclear programme is peaceful.

It has been seen as a possible compromise solution that would see Iran satisfying its European negotiating partners while retaining a right to enrichment and staving off the threat of UN Security Council sanctions.

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