Progress scant in Iran-Russia nuclear talks

THE BALTIMORE SUN

MOSCOW --A second day of negotiations between Iran and Russia ended yesterday without evident progress, amid signs of increasing frustration here over the unsuccessful 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 an exchange for a joint venture to enrich Iran's uranium on Russian soil, according to diplomats and news accounts.

Russia's foreign minister, Sergey V. 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."

The board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is scheduled to meet March 6 and 7, 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 news agency that the talks were "constructive" but lacked details, including where Russia intended to place the proposed enrichment facility and to what degree Iranian scientists would participate.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who participated in separate talks in Brussels, Belgium, again ruled out returning to a moratorium previously negotiated with Britain, France and Germany.

R. Nicholas Burns, the U.S. undersecretary 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 Eight nations at which the Iranian nuclear program was extensively discussed.

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 it 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 yesterday.

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