Iran talks break off in Moscow

Posted in Iran | 22-Feb-06 | Author: Steven Myers| Source: International Herald Tribune

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki before a meeting in EU headquarters in Brussels.
MOSCOW A second day of negotiations between Iran and Russia ended Tuesday without evident progress, amid signs of increasing frustration here over the lack of success in efforts to break a diplomatic impasse over Iran's nuclear programs.

After a brief resumption of talks in the morning at the Foreign Ministry, Iran's negotiators left Moscow, having refused to consider a new moratorium on nuclear research, which Russia has demanded in exchange for a joint venture to enrich uranium on Russian soil, according to diplomats and news accounts.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, refused to characterize the progress of the talks, which began in the Kremlin on Monday, saying it was "premature to use terms such as failure or success."

Time, however, was running out before a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is scheduled for March 6 and 7.

After a preliminary decision last month, the agency's board of governors could refer the issue to the United Nations Security Council for consideration of punitive actions against Iran.

Iran's chief negotiator in the latest round of negotiations, Ali Hosseinitash, told the IRNA press agency that the talks had been "constructive" but lacking in details, including where Russia intended to locate the proposed enrichment facility and the level of participation by Iranian scientists.

The foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, who participated in separate talks in Brussels, again ruled out returning to a moratorium previously negotiated with Britain, France and Germany.

R. Nicholas Burns, the American under secretary of state for political affairs, said in an interview in Moscow that Iran had not offered anything new during the talks in Moscow. Burns attended a preparatory meeting of the Group of 8 nations, in which the Iranian nuclear program was a subject of considerable discussion.

The United States has welcomed Russia's proposal, which would limit Iran's access to uranium that could be turned into material for weapons, but pressed for a stern response to Iran's defiance of international demands.

"The bottom line is that the Iranians appear to be stalling," Burns said on Tuesday.

Russia has made it clear that it preferred to resolve the conflict at the level of the Atomic Energy Agency and not the Security Council, which could impose sanctions or even, in the extreme, authorize military action to force Iran to comply with its commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's atomic energy agency, is scheduled to visit Iran on Thursday. In remarks to Russian news agencies, he said the talks would continue then.

"Russia is offering the world community and Iran the only possible solution to the situation," he said.

A senior lawmaker in Moscow was more blunt about Iranian intentions to resolve the conflict. "Regrettably, Tehran has not shown enough good will," Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the lower house of Parliament's foreign affairs committee, said in remarks reported by Russian news agencies.