TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s envoy to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Saturday the Islamic republic had reached a “basic deal” with the Kremlin to form a joint uranium enrichment venture on Russian territory, state-run television reported.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, “spoke of a basic agreement between Iran and Russia to set up a joint uranium enrichment firm on Russian soil,” Iranian state television reported.
It remained unclear, though, whether Iran would entirely give up enrichment at home, a top demand of the West, or whether the joint venture would complement Iran’s existing enrichment program. Enriched uranium can be used to fuel nuclear reactors that generate electricity or to make atomic bombs.
“Only issues regarding technical, legal and financial matters remain to be resolved which need more deliberation and exchange of views,” the television quoted Soltanieh as saying Saturday in Moscow.
Soltanieh made the comment on the sidelines of an energy conference. Russia and state television gave no details on the deal.
In February, Iran and Russia announced that they had reached a “basic agreement” to establish a joint uranium enrichment venture in Russian, but details were never worked out.
Iran has vowed it would never give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel.
The United States has accused Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to build weapons. Tehran has rejected the charges, saying instead that its nuclear program is geared merely to generating electricity.
U.N. Security Council has given Iran until April 28 to cease enrichment of uranium. The council has the power to impose economic and political sanctions.
But Iran has rejected the council’s demand and announced earlier this month that, for the first time, it had enriched uranium with 164 centrifuges — a step toward large-scale production.
The United States and Britain say that if Iran does not comply with the Security Council deadline, they will seek a resolution making the demand compulsory.