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Russia and Iran agree to enrichment venture
Updated: 2006-02-27 08:53

MOSCOW (AP) -- Iran's nuclear chief said Sunday that Moscow and Tehran had agreed in principle to set up a joint uranium enrichment venture, Russian news reports said.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who heads Iran's Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the two nations had agreed in principle on Moscow's proposal to enrich Iranian uranium in Russia, the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies reported.

Previous talks on the Moscow offer, backed by the United States and the European Union, brought no visible breakthrough.

Russian nuclear chief Sergei Kiriyenko, who met with Aghazadeh in Iran on Sunday, said Moscow would insist on resolving the Iranian nuclear dispute within the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Kiriyenko said Russia would stress its position at a March 6 meeting of the IAEA. The meeting could start a process leading to punishment by the U.N. Security Council. The council has the authority to impose sanctions on Iran.

Moscow has been struggling to persuade Tehran to return to a moratorium on uranium enrichment and agree to shift its enrichment program to Russian territory to ease world concerns it could divert enriched uranium to a weapons program.

Such steps would ease pressure on the Security Council -- whose veto-wielding members are the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France -- to punish Tehran and could foster further diplomacy.

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