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Russia says Iran is 'no help' in nuclear diplomacy efforts

TEHRAN -- Russia yesterday accused Iran of obstructing its diplomatic efforts to settle Tehran's nuclear dispute with the West, but the Iranians said they still were interested in a Russian compromise.

''We are extremely disappointed with the way Iran is behaving in the course of these talks," Russia's RIA news agency has quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying.

''Iran is absolutely no help to those who want to find peaceful ways to solve this problem."

A senior Iranian official earlier insisted Tehran wanted a diplomatic way out of the nuclear standoff and still was considering the Russian proposal, apparently retracting remarks by the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman a day earlier.

Tehran has sent mixed signals on Russia's offer to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian soil to supply Iranian nuclear power reactors and ensure no fuel is diverted to bomb-making.

Lavrov said bilateral Iran-Russia talks would take place shortly at Tehran's request, but gave no details.

An unidentified official was quoted later by Iran's semi-official ISNA students' news agency as saying the talks would take place tomorrow and Thursday, probably in Moscow.

The UN Security Council, which can impose sanctions, is due to consider Iran's nuclear dossier this week after the Islamic Republic failed to persuade the International Atomic Energy Agency that its atomic work was purely peaceful.

''The Russian proposal should be reviewed with respect to the new developments," Hossein Entezami, spokesman for the Supreme National Security Council, told the state news agency IRNA.

''Tehran has repeatedly said that it welcomes any solution which could help to resolve Iran's nuclear issue."

Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi of the Foreign Ministry said on Sunday: ''Now the situation has changed. The Russian proposal is not on the agenda."

Russia's Interfax news agency also reported that Tehran had made it clear it was still considering the compromise, and that as far Moscow was concerned, the offer still stood.

So far the sticking point has been Iran's refusal to abandon at least some uranium enrichment on its own soil for ''research."

The West fears that even small-scale enrichment would unlock the know-how Iran would need to make nuclear weapons.

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