Russia, France, US propose nuclear meet with Iran

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Russia, France and the United States have proposed a UN-brokered meeting with experts from all three countries and Iran to discuss a nuclear fuel swap deal, Russia's top diplomat said on Tuesday.

The talks brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be held on condition that Iran stop enriching uranium to 20 percent levels, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a visit to Israel.

He said the meeting would be aimed at solving "issues of fuel supply for Tehran's research reactor," and came in response to an initiative by Brazil and Turkey in May aimed at resolving the international standoff.

"In response to Brazil and Turkey's initiative, Russia, France and the United States have proposed to the IAEA general director to organise a meeting of technical experts of the three countries with Iranian experts in order to solve issues of fuel supply for Tehran's research reactor," Lavrov was quoted by the Itar-TASS news agency as saying in Jerusalem.

He added that that the proposal was "under the understanding that Iran itself halts the 20 percent enrichment."

"I expect Iran to respond constructively because it will allow us to settle the situation that generates concern," Lavrov said.

Last month Brazil and Turkey reached a nuclear swap deal with Iran that would se it ship part of its low enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for fuel for the Tehran reactor.

The United States, France and Russia -- known as the Vienna group -- cold-shouldered the deal ahead of a UN Security Council vote on June 9 to slap broader military and financial sanctions on Iran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, responding to the sanctions, on Monday ruled out talks with the P5+1 world powers -- Britain, France, Russia, China, the United States and Germany -- on Tehran's uranium enrichment programme until the end of the Iranian month of Mordad, around late August.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki clarified on Tuesday that the talks' freeze relates only to Iran's overall atomic programme and does not include discussions on a nuclear fuel deal.

The West believes Iran's nuclear enrichment programme is part of a covert effort to manufacture nuclear weapons, while Iran insists its programme is entirely peaceful.

Neither the United States nor Israel has ruled out a military strike on the country's nuclear facilities if sanctions fail to halt its nuclear drive.


© 2010 AFP

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