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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Japan Today - News - Russia, U.S. clash over Iran's nuke rights - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Russia, U.S. clash over Iran's nuke rights - Japan's Leading International News NetworkRussia, U.S. clash over Iran's nuke rights

Sunday, October 16, 2005 at 06:40 JST
MOSCOW — The United States and Russia feuded openly over Iran's nuclear program Saturday when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice passed briefly through the Russian capital before flying to London.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended Tehran's right to enrich uranium for atomic energy while Rice, who met later with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Iran could not be trusted with the process.

Washington and Moscow's diverging opinions over whether Iran should be allowed to enrich uranium for any purpose were painfully apparent when Rice and Lavrov spoke to reporters after a lengthy discussion.

"All members of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) have this right," said Lavrov, adding that Russia had seen no evidence to support U.S. claims that the Islamic republic sought to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear energy program.

Rice retorted: "It is not a question of rights... the NPT doesn't come only with rights but also with obligations. This is not an issue of rights but of whether or not the fuel cycle can be trusted in Iran."

While their comments only reiterated the well-known and differing positions of Russia and the United States on the Iran nuclear question, the spectacle of Lavrov and Rice arguing over the specific point of the enrichment process was an unusual occurrence and underscored their split.

Russia and the United States also disagree on whether Iran should be brought before the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions.

Washington is for the move and Moscow against.

Lavrov said Russia saw no reason at present to transfer the Iran dossier from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to another organization.

For her part, Rice — speaking to reporters traveling with her by plane to London — said: "We are prepared to let that course proceed."

But she added: "At the same time, I think we have to prepare for the possibility that that course might not lead to fruitful negotiations.

Russia says it shares U.S. opposition to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, but insists there is no evidence that Tehran is trying to do so.

Earlier this year, Iran agreed to tighter controls on fuel rods used to generate nuclear energy, signing an agreement with Russia under which Moscow would deliver the fuel and then recover the spent fuel rods under international supervision.

Rice reiterated the U.S. view that oil-rich Iran "needs no civilian nuclear program," but acknowledged that the nuclear fuel agreement with Russia "is a reliable way to make certain that there are no problems with the fuel cycle."

The IAEA is set to meet again in Vienna on Nov 24 but Rice, who appeared to have failed to secure Russia's support on the matter, was careful not to present this date as a deadline.

She said the Security Council would be addressed "at the time of our choosing." (Wire reports)

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