Iran, Russia 'expand uranium plan'
Aerial photo of Natanz nuclear complex, where Iran resumed operations earlier this month.
(CNN) -- Iran and Russia have agreed to expand the number of countries involved in a plan to enrich Iranian uranium in Russia, Iran's official news agency has reported.
The plan has been cited as an effort that could assuage Western fears over Iran's nuclear program.
Tehran has previously shown little interest in the idea, intended to assuage Western fears that Iran does not covertly divert enriched fuel towards a weapons program.
Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, but the West is concerned that it has been intent on developing weapons.
Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted Saturday in the Islamic Republic News Agency as saying that "thus far, Tehran and Moscow have reached agreement on certain points such as increasing the number of partners."
Iran would send its uranium to Russia under such a plan. The uranium would be enriched there and shipped back to Iran -- which would use the material to generate electricity.
Mottaki made his comments in Tehran after meeting with his counterpart from Bahrain.
News footage recorded Mottaki saying that more "intensive talks" are needed over Iran's nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors will discuss the issue at a special meeting Thursday in Vienna. But Mottaki thinks talks should continue until another IAEA board meeting in March.
Months of talks with European nations did not make headway in settling the issue.
Iran recently broke IAEA seals on its nuclear facilities, raising great concerns in the West and a possible referral to the U.N. Security Council for violating a nuclear arms treaty and ensuing sanctions.
Mottaki said Iran "is obliged to stop all voluntary measures with IAEA" if it is reported to the U.N. Security Council.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, speaking at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, said Iran "must provide objective guarantees that their nuclear capability is solely for civil nuclear power purposes." (Full story)
The IAEA board of governors is to discuss Iran at an emergency meeting Feb. 2-3 in Vienna.
Aiming to avoid a showdown, Russia has suggested that instead of a formal referral to the Security Council, the IAEA board could just ask the council to discuss the Iran issue and then send it back to the IAEA.
But this informal move carries less legal weight and would mean the council could not consider sanctions.
The IAEA board had previously found Iran in non-compliance with its non-proliferation obligations but delayed sending the issue to the Security Council, while giving more time for European-led negotiations to proceed.
Since then, negotiations collapsed, Iran broke seals on nuclear facilities under IAEA monitoring and declared it would resume sensitive nuclear enrichment activities, which could give it fuel for a bomb.
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