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Uranium enrichment in Russia to cover Iran nuclear needs


VIENNA, February 2 (RIA Novosti) - A senior Russian diplomat said Thursday that uranium enrichment in Russia for Iran's nuclear power plants would cover the Islamic Republic's atomic energy needs, as the UN's nuclear watchdog convened in Vienna for an emergency session to discuss the brewing crisis.

Russia's initiative to enrich uranium on its territory for Iran, which broke a two-year moratorium on nuclear research last month, has been seen as a possible compromise with a potential to diffuse the current international tensions around Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Addressing the Board of Governors of the watchdog, the 35-nation International Atomic Energy Agency, Russian envoy Grigory Berdennikov reiterated President Vladimir Putin's proposal to build uranium enrichment facilities in Russia and other "nuclear club" nations, providing access on a non-discriminatory basis to countries looking for nuclear fuel for power production, under the IAEA's supervision.

"Once turned into practice, the Russian initiative will make it possible to provide for Iran's nuclear energy needs for years to come, given that a uranium enrichment moratorium is observed," Berdennikov said.

He added that the current IAEA session would hopefully yield a constructive decision, which would bring closer a resolution to the Iranian nuclear problem through negotiations and allow the IAEA's director general, Mohammed ElBaradei, to report about the progress at the next board session in March.

The IAEA board is considering Iran's referral to the UN Security Council, a U.S.-led move backed by the other Western nations and Israel that suspect Iran of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program. The Council has the power to impose sanctions on Iran if it is found to be in breach of its international commitments.

Earlier, the U.S., the European trio of Britain, France and Germany, and Russia and China met in Brussels and decided in favor of referring Iran to the UN, though only in March at the next scheduled session of the IAEA.

In response to this decision, Tehran said it would proceed with uranium enrichment if it were referred to the UN Security Council.

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