Monday, February 27, 2006

No progress in Iran-Russia nuclear talks

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Negotiations between Iran and Russia on the Iranian nuclear programme have made no significant progress despite talk of an outline agreement by both sides, the German and French foreign ministers said on Monday.

"It appears that no decisive progress has been achieved," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters, citing reports from Moscow, after EU ministers discussed the negotiations at their monthly meeting in Brussels.

He said Iran appeared to be using the talks to try to divide the international community, but "this will not be successful".

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the Tehran talks had not achieved a breakthrough towards halting Iran's sensitive nuclear activities, which Western governments believe are aimed at developing atomic weapons.

"The Russia-Iran negotiations have not succeeded. I saw with regret what happened yesterday in Tehran," he told reporters.

The French minister said Iran's actions continued to go in the wrong direction, resuming sensitive nuclear enrichment work, withholding full cooperation from the U.N. nuclear watchdog and making no progress on Russia's compromise ideas.

Moscow has proposed that instead of enriching uranium on its own soil, which could be a precursor to making nuclear weapons, Iran should form a joint venture to produce enriched fuel for its civilian nuclear reactor in Russia.

On Sunday, Iran's nuclear chief said his nation had reached "basic" agreement with Russia on a joint venture to enrich uranium, but it was unclear what the deal involved, and Iran's foreign minister repeated on Monday that Tehran would not suspend its own atomic research and development.

In a joint statement, the 25 EU foreign ministers said that if Iran continued to fail to heed repeated requests by the International Atomic Energy Agency board, the U.N. Security Council should put its weight behind those demands.

"Iran's decision to limit cooperation further increases international concerns and suspicions about Iranian intentions and makes it more difficult for the IAEA to resolve outstanding issues," they said.

The EU ministers welcomed Russia's efforts to seek a way forward, noting it was conditional on Iran suspending all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.

They also called on Tehran to protect diplomatic missions after a series of attacks on European missions in protests against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, and over the destruction of a Shi'ite Muslim shrine in Iraq.

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