Iran needs no uranium enrichment: Russia's Lavrov

MOSCOW Wed Dec 26, 2007 4:32am EST

Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov listens during a news conference in Riga December 18, 2007. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov listens during a news conference in Riga December 18, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Ints Kalnins

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's delivery of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr power station makes it unnecessary for Iran to pursue its enrichment program, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Lavrov, interviewed by the Moscow daily Vremya Novostei, also said any suggestion of "regime change" in Tehran had to be ruled out in discussions on verifying Iran's nuclear program.

"We believe that Iran has no economic need to proceed with its program of uranium enrichment," Lavrov told the daily.

"We are trying to persuade the Iranians that freezing the program is to their advantage as it would immediately lead to talks with all countries of the "six", including the United States."

Such talks, he said, would aim to end any suspicion that Iran had any secret aim to produce nuclear weapons. "Iran's agreement to this proposal is in everyone's interest."

Iran was aware, he said, that should there be any deviation from agreements to build Bushehr under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, "we will freeze our cooperation".

Russia this month delivered the first shipment of 80 metric tons of nuclear fuel to Bushehr, which Russian engineers are building under a $1 billion contract.

U.S. President George W. Bush said the delivery could help international efforts to persuade Iran to halt enrichment, but a senior Iranian official said the delivery had nothing to do with any decision on the program.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed two sets of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt enrichment.

In his comments, Lavrov said the six countries dealing with Iran -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- had a mandate to assess Tehran's program and there could be no talk of trying to change Iran's leadership.

"If, in fulfilling these declared aims, our American partners pursue the aim of regime change, this would be an improper partnership," he told Vremya Novostei. "This would be an alteration of policies and we would oppose it."

(Writing by Ron Popeski, editing by Tim Pearce)

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