Russia formally offers to host Iran’s uranium enrichment program
MOSCOW – Russia formally proposed to Iran on Saturday that it move its uranium enrichment facilities to Russian territory, raising pressure on the Tehran regime to accept the Western-backed plan for restraining its nuclear program.Iran insists the program has the sole aim of making fuel for atomic reactors that would generate electricity and denies U.S. charges it is trying to develop nuclear weapons in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.Washington and the European Union have warned about taking Tehran before the U.N. Security Council for consideration of sanctions over the dispute. But Russia and China, which have vetoes on the council, oppose referral and the West has stopped short of forcing the matter.In a diplomatic note to Iran’s government, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that “an earlier Russian offer to Iran to establish a joint Russian-Iranian enrichment venture in Russia remains valid,” the ministry said. The note was delivered by the Russian Embassy in Tehran.Iranian officials didn’t immediately comment on the offer. Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of the Atomic Organization of Iran, dismissed the proposal as unacceptable earlier this month.Germany, France and Britain suggested shifting Iran’s enrichment activities to Russia, where nuclear material would be enriched to the level needed to fuel reactors. That, in theory, would reduce the possibility the technology also could be used to make weapons-grade uranium.Russia’s Foreign Ministry said its formal proposal represented a “Russian contribution into the search for mutually acceptable solutions in the context of settling the situation around the Iranian nuclear program by political and diplomatic means.”Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Iran in a deal that has drawn strong U.S. criticism.Iran’s enrichment program is viewed with suspicion because the country hid that work from U.N. inspectors for nearly two decades before its secret nuclear activities were revealed nearly three years ago.Since then, a probe by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, has unearthed Iranian experiments, blueprints and equipment that either have “dual-use” applications or seem to have no nonmilitary function. That has further added to concerns, even though no firm evidence of a weapons program has been found.