Russia presents new nuclear plan to Iran

AFP , Wednesday 17 Aug 2011

Russia affirms its willingness to back Iranian-western nuclear talks after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accepted Moscow's new nuclear plan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (Photo:Reuters)

Russia pressed ahead Wednesday with its drive to revive the stalled nuclear talks between Iran and Western powers after the Islamic state's president said he backed Moscow's new crisis proposals.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was due to meet his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi in Moscow to discuss the details of a "step-by-step" plan that rewards Tehran for greater transparency with a gradual easing of UN sanctions.

The second round of negotiations in Moscow comes a day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received Russian Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev and pronounced his approval of the new approach.

"Iran welcomes Russia's step-by-step proposal and is ready to make suggestions to cooperate," Ahmadinejad said in comments released by the president's website.

But it is Iran's all-powerful supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has the final say on the country's major political decisions -- especially on foreign policy and the nuclear issue.

Lavrov presented Russia's new plan during a July meeting in Washington with US President Barack Obama.

Previous attempts by Russia to mediate between its traditional Middle East partner and the West have been viewed with suspicion by the US administration and Washington has thus far taken a wait-and-see approach to the latest bid.

A Russian foreign ministry source told the Kommersant business daily that Lavrov's plan "is not an actual document but a series of proposals."

The Russian diplomat added that the idea has been agreed with the other major Western powers and "has received their support".

The Iranian discussions involve the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany -- the so-called P5+1.

The last round of talks between the Islamic republic and the group broke down in January.

Iran remains adamant that it will push ahead with its controversial nuclear enrichment activities while denying that they are a part of a secret weapons programme.

Russia for its part has raised its criticism of Iran and now argues that it is up to the Islamic state to prove its peaceful intentions.

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