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UPDATED: 08:59, February 20, 2006
Roundup: Iran intensifies diplomacy ahead of key IAEA meeting
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Iran has intensified its diplomatic efforts to garner support and seek an acceptable compromise over its controversial nuclear program two weeks before a key meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

A senior Iranian negotiating team is due to leave for Moscow on Sunday night for talks with Russian officials on its proposal designed to defuse the current tension over Iran's nuclear file.

The talks were originally scheduled on Thursday, but delayed to Monday at Tehran's request.

Iran's official media confirmed on Sunday that Sergei Kirienko, chief of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, would pay a visit to Iran on March 1.

Russia proposed last December that Iran and Russia establish a joint venture in Russia to enrich uranium for Iran in a bid to allay the West's concerns that Iran might pursue nuclear weapons.

Iran, on its part, has termed the offer as incomplete but not negative, expressing determination to enrich uranium on its own soil.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki will also take his way to Brussels, Belgium, for talks on Monday with European diplomats including EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Mottaki is also scheduled to deliver a speech at the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament.

Ahead of his diplomatic tour, Mottaki said that the Russian compromise proposal would be acceptable to Iran after amendments.

"Russia's nuclear proposal would serve Iran's interests if it turned into a comprehensive offer by holding talks and including complimentary terms and conditions," Mottaki was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying.

"It should be negotiated to help clarify some of its aspects and study more elements," he added.

However, the top Iranian diplomat rejected a recent Russian call for re-suspending uranium enrichment work, reiterating that Iran would not give up its legal rights.

Javad Vaeidi, Deputy Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council who will accompany Mottaki on the trip to Brussels, also said on Sunday that Iran would not accept any pressure on its nuclear fuel activities, referring to the small- scale enrichment work that resumed on Feb. 13.

Last week, the Iranian Majlis (Parliament) Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel kicked off an eight-day tour to Latin America, attaching great importance to the visits to Cuba and Venezuela.

Cuba and Venezuela, two members of the IAEA's board of governors, voted on Feb. 4 against a resolution drafted by the EU which requires the UN nuclear watchdog to report Iran's case to the UN Security Council, which might lead to sanctions.

During his tour, Haddad-Adel repeatedly defended developing peaceful nuclear energy as Iran's inalienable right, vowing that the Iranian nation would not "bow to the U.S. and Europe's unfair pressure."

Though keeping tough on the principle, Iran, on the other hand, has been exploiting new avenues to break through the current deadlock and warmly encouraging efforts of the concerned parties to that effect.

Mottaki said on Sunday that Iran welcomed any initiatives or efforts for securing the country's legal rights while dispersing the international concerns over its nuclear program.

On Saturday, the minister hailed as "a step forward" a recent suggestion by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to allow Iran to perform small-scale uranium enrichment.

"We welcome our friends' positive view toward the issue of enrichment inside Iran and regard it as a step forward," Mottaki said.

Some western media recently quoted diplomatic sources as saying that ElBaradei had recently expressed worries that it would be hard to reach a compromise on the Iranian nuclear issue unless the Islamic Republic was allowed to conduct small-scale enrichment work.

According to ElBaradei, a deal could be reached by permitting Iran to operate a pilot plant for its small-scale enrichment work in exchange for Tehran's withdrawal from industrial-scale enrichment.

On Friday, the Iranian Embassy to French said in a statement that Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani had made a new proposal on guaranteeing the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities.

According to the statement, Larijani told French media that the guarantees could be provided by Iran's admittance of the IAEA's inspections of its nuclear sites and the operation of centrifuges which are restricted to produce low-enriched uranium.

The statement also said that in case of the acceptance of the new proposal, Iran would submit the additional protocol of the Non- Proliferation Treaty to the Majlis for ratification, which was signed by the Iranian government in late 2003 but failed to be approved by the lawmakers.

Iran had ceased the "voluntary" implementation of the additional protocol, which, along with the resumption of enrichment, made up of Tehran's retaliation against the IAEA's resolution on Feb. 4.

The IAEA's board of governors will convene again on March 6 and it is likely for the agency to formally refer Iran's case to the UN Security Council if a compromise cannot be reached beforehand.

The IAEA resolution on Feb. 4 requires the UN Security Council not to take actions on Iran before the agency's March meeting.

Source: Xinhua

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