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Iran Indicates Willingness to Compromise Ahead of IAEA Meeting

  • Steve Herman

Iran says it accepts in principle a Russian offer aimed at heading off international concerns over Iran's nuclear plans, and talks between the two nations were due to resume in Moscow today. But the Iranian Foreign Minister said in Japan that the Russian proposal would remain in effect only for a short time, and that Tehran insists on the right to "large-scale" production of nuclear fuel.

As the clock ticks towards a showdown between the international community and Iran, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran is willing to compromise to allay concerns about its nuclear activities.

Europe and the United States suspect that Iran is seeking to produce nuclear weapons, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has issued a report saying it cannot rule out that Tehran has a covert nuclear arms program.

Mottaki, speaking to the Japan Institute of International Affairs Wednesday, said his country's nuclear program was transparent, and his government intended to cooperate with the IAEA.

"We have nothing to hide," he said. "We are in a position of cooperation."

The dispute centers around Iran's insistence on enriching uranium. Tehran says it intends to use the uranium only for peacetime nuclear energy generation. Russia has offered to enrich Iranian uranium on Russian soil, with international supervision, as a partial way of alleviating international concerns.

Mottaki announced that Iran accepts the Russian offer in principle, but only for a limited time.

"There is the factor or element of timing," he said. "It means for how long this project will be continued? Definitely, in this item, Iran insists as short as possible."

He also insisted on Iran's basic right to enlarge, on its own, the scale of its enrichment program.

"We have our lab-scale enrichment," said Mottaki. "We insist on Iran's right for the next main step, which is large-scale, or commercial-scale enrichment for production of nuclear fuel."

The Russian-Iranian talks began in Beijing last week, but adjourned without reaching any conclusion. Tehran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, was due to lead the Iranian delegation to Moscow for resumed talks Wednesday.

As another part of Iran's campaign to win international support for its position, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmendinejad was due to visit the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur Wednesday. Malaysia is an influential Muslim country that chairs the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the world's largest grouping of Muslim nations, and has supported Tehran in its dispute with the West and the IAEA.

This week's flurry of diplomatic activity comes as the IAEA, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, prepares to meet next Monday to discuss the report on Iran. The agency could decide to forward the matter to the United Nations Security Council, which could impose sanctions against the Islamic republic.

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