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. Hope remains Tehran may halt enrichment: Russian FM
MOSCOW, Sept 11 (AFP) Sep 11, 2006
Hope remains that Iran will agree to halt uranium enrichment, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a newspaper interview published Monday.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany "called on the Iranians to freeze activities related to uranium enrichment, and we think that additional efforts in our work with Iran will allow us to reach such an agreement," Lavrov said in an interview published in Russian daily Vremya Novostei.

"Hope remains," he added.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana reported progress in last-ditch talks at the weekend to avert UN sanctions, and are to meet again this weekend.

Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States offered Iran negotiations on a package of trade and other benefits if it suspends enrichment, but Tehran has so far refused, asserting its rights under international treaties to pursue a peaceful nuclear program.

The United States has accused Iran of secretly trying to develop a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran denies. Enriching uranium produces fuel for atomic power plants, and in high concentrations the explosive core for nuclear bombs.

While Iran's response "cannot be described as completely satisfactory, it keeps open the possibility for dialogue," Lavrov said.

Sanctions "remains in the arsenal of the international community, in that there is no doubt," said the minister. But ""what can we achieve by sanctions? Only that Iran and the Security Council will be forced into a corner."

Lavrov accused the United States of pursuing its own interests by trying to force a confrontation with calls for an immediate imposition of full-scale sanctions.

"It is irrational to talk to Iran in the language of ultimatums," he said.

Although Russia has the power to veto sanctions as a permanent member of the Security Council, Lavrov said this option would be used prudently.

"Like with any weapon, the right to veto is most effective when it is not used, but everyone knows that it is there," he said.

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