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. Iran, Russia in fresh talks on nuclear crisis
TEHRAN, Iran, April 19 (AFP) Apr 19, 2006
Iran sent a high-ranking delegation to Moscow Wednesday amid renewed efforts to resolve a mounting international crisis over its disputed nuclear programme.

But the foreign ministry gave no indication of whether the envoys were bearing any concessions from the hardline leadership, with just over a week to go before the expiry of a UN Security Council deadline to freeze uranium enrichment.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told state radio the delegation, which included one of his deputies as well as aides of top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, would hold "discussions aimed at finding a solution" to the crisis.

"The delegation could also meet with European diplomats" currently in Moscow for preparatory talks for the Group of Eight summit in July, foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told AFP.

The delegation was invited by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, he said.

The Security Council is awaiting a report due by April 28 from International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei on whether Iran has complied with its demands to freeze uranium enrichment.

Iran insists its programme is peaceful, but enrichment can be extended from making reactor fuel to the production of warheads.

The fresh flurry of diplomatic activity came the day after US President George W. Bush said he had not ruled out military action.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday that Bush's position was "perfectly sensible" and called for the world to "send a clear and united message" to Iran.

Talks in Moscow on Tuesday between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- and Germany failed to result in a consensus on how to deal with Iran.

The West and Russia have been seeking to present a united front, but there are also signs of division over how toughly to act.

G8 officials were meeting in Moscow Wednesday to hone plans for a July summit, also set to be overshdowed by the Iran crisis.

Quoted by the ISNA news agency, Asefi only reiterated that the West should "not use the language of force and pressure".

When asked about the danger of US military action, he replied: "We think that the possibility of this is very small, because groups in America and the world would not accept such a thing and Iran's capacities do not permit it."

Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was also in a defiant mood, touching on the sensitive topic of Iran's oil supplies by proposing that producers offer cut-price crude to poorer countries.

"Oil-producing countries, in particular OPEC members, could determine quotas for poor consumers with better prices," the president was quoted as saying by ISNA.

"We propose... that producers put aside a part of their their surplus production, to compensate for the pressure on poor countries," added the president, without going into details.

World oil prices remained within sight of record highs struck the previous day on fears of a US military strike against Iran.

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