Iran Tuesday described talks in Moscow over a Russian compromise proposal on uranium enrichment as "positive and constructive" and said further discussions were planned.
"We discussed a joint formula and we will continue talks," Ali Hosseinitash, deputy secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security and head of the Iranian delegation in Russia, told Iranian television by telephone from Moscow.
After two days of talks in Moscow, Russian and Iranian negotiators said they planned more discussions this week on a Russian proposal to enrich uranium for Iran, seen as a way to ensure Teheran cannot divert nuclear fuel into bomb-making.
But the two sides appeared far apart, with Iran's foreign minister ruling out any return to a moratorium on uranium enrichment, which Russia has repeatedly demanded.
Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's atomic energy agency Rosatom, was due to travel to Iran on Thursday.
Hosseinitash called the talks "positive and constructive," but the Russians were more circumspect, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin saying only that Moscow's proposal had been examined in detail and that more talks were planned.
Kamynin, quoted by ITAR-TASS news agency, said Moscow had again stressed that Iran must restore the enrichment moratorium.
US officials suggest Iran is discussing the Russian plan merely to gain time, a view shared by many Russian commentators.
Teheran has said it will consider a joint venture with Russia and possibly others to enrich uranium for power stations, but insists on a right to pursue enrichment at home as well.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, visiting Tokyo, made clear that the patience of Berlin was not endless. "We do not rule out the possibility of economic sanctions completely," he said. "We have no option but to pray that the Iranian Government will make a final decision with sincerity."
Meanwhile, Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced that it will no longer hold talks with Britain, France and Germany, the so-called E3, on behalf of the European Union, at a press conference held in Tehran.
"The phase of negotiations with the EU trio is over," he said. "From now on, we will talk to the whole of Europe, but on a bilateral basis," Mottaki emphasized. "We will resume discussions with individual countries on the basis of shared interests and in mutual respect, without preconditions," he stated.
"The next round of talks with a European partner should start with ways for Iran to enrich the uranium it needs run its nuclear power plants," Mottaki noted.
(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency February 22, 2006)