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US says Iran blast reports not credible
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Jan 28, 2013

Russia fumes at 'childish' debate over Iran venue
Moscow (AFP) Jan 28, 2013 - Russia on Monday accused world powers and Iran of behaving like capricious children as they delay holding new nuclear crisis talks because of disagreements about where these should be held.

"We are ready to meet anywhere and as soon as possible. We think that the essence of our talks is far more important than any morale boost a particular city may give," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters.

"We hope that common sense will prevail and we stop behaving like capricious little children," he added.

Iran blamed world powers on Saturday as it officially confirmed that the talks would be moved from January to February to an as-yet unspecified location.

The so-called "P5+1" -- the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany -- and Iran have met three times without a breakthrough in the past 10 months.

Israel and much of the West suspect Iran is trying to develop atomic weapons under the guise of its nuclear energy programme. Tehran denies the charge.

Moscow hosted the last top-level meetings in June has recently expressed repeated frustrations over the delays.

Lavrov said he found the dispute over location "completely unacceptable."

Some diplomats had earlier said the talks might be held for the second time in Istanbul.

Iran has preferred a neutral venue or a country more sympathetic to its position rather that a Western capital in which it could also come under pressure from the local press.

The idea of holding the meeting meeting in the Kazakh capital Astana has also been floated while Western officials have also mentioned the idea of Geneva talks.

The White House on Monday dismissed reports of an underground explosion at Iran's Fordo atomic plant and also accused the Islamic Republic of adopting delaying tactics on nuclear talks.

Iran had previously condemned reports in sectors of the US and Israeli media about the alleged blast as "western propaganda" designed to influence the outcome of its stalled nuclear dialogue with Western powers.

"We have no information to confirm the allegations in that report, and we do not believe the report is credible," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The reports cited the conservative American news website WND, which reported that an explosion at the Fordo facility on January 21 had caused major damage and trapped workers.

Iran has several times accused Israel and the United States of taking action to sabotage its nuclear program, through assassinations of its scientists and unleashing computer malware against its facilities.

The Fordo site is dug into a mountain near the holy city of Qom, some 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of Tehran, to protect it against air strikes.

Iran says it has been targeted previously, and blamed an explosion that reportedly cut the power supply to Fordo on saboteurs.

The site, whose existence was revealed by major powers in 2009, began in late 2011 to enrich uranium to purities of 20 percent, a process at the heart of US and western concerns that Iran is trying to make a nuclear bomb.

The last round of Iran's talks with the so-called P5+1 -- the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia -- held June in Moscow ended with a stalemate, as did previous rounds.

The sides have failed to agree on a new stage of talks, blaming each other for uncertainty over a date and venue. The US side has said Iran was offered talks in Istanbul at the end of this month, but never confirmed.

"Iran, not for the first time, has been continually putting forward new conditions as a delaying tactic," Carney said.

"Negotiations about negotiations is a familiar tactic that only results in further isolation and more pressure on Iran."

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the ball is in Iran's court after the US proposed "another set of dates and another range of venues in February."

She said the US had been extremely "open and flexible" but that Washington had to ensure the talks were held in "a venue that's not politicized."

"I don't think we're going to Tehran, for example," she added. Tehran and Washington have not had diplomatic relations since the storming of the US embassy in the Iranian capital in 1979 and the subsequent hostage crisis.


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