Russia hopeful on Iran nuclear agreement

A new round of talks on Iran`s nuclear program is scheduled to be held in New York next week on the sidelines of the NPT preparatory conference.

United Nations: Iran`s unprecedented cooperation with the UN`s nuclear watchdog and six world powers raises hope that an agreement can be reached to limit Iran`s ability to build nuclear arms before the July 20 deadline, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official said ahead of a new round of talks next week.

Mikhail Uliyanov, director of the ministry`s Department of Arms Control and Nonproliferation, gave the upbeat assessment to the third and final preparatory conference for next year`s review of the landmark 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, a pact aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

A new round of talks on Iran`s nuclear program is scheduled to be held in New York next week on the sidelines of the NPT preparatory conference.

Iran is hoping the talks with the US, Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany will result in relief from the sanctions which have crippled its economy, particularly by slashing vital oil exports and severely restricting international banking transactions.

Uliyanov said an action plan agreed to by both sides on Nov. 24 "is being implemented consistently."

"We are confident that the unprecedentedly constructive cooperation of Iran with the IAEA as well as with the (six powers) gives grounds to hope for a successful outcome of the talks on a comprehensive solution to Iran`s nuclear issue before the deadline of July 20," he said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is the UN`s nuclear watchdog.

A senior Iranian Foreign Ministry official, Hamid Baeidinejad, made no mention of the upcoming talks in his speech to the preparatory conference yesterday.
Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful. Baeidinejad reiterated "the inalienable right" of all parties to the 1970 nonproliferation pact to research, develop, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

He called on the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament, the world`s most important disarmament negotiating forum, to urgently start negotiations on a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons that would prohibit their possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use, and provide for their destruction.

Baeidinejad, the Foreign Ministry`s director general for political and international security affairs, accused the nuclear-weapon states of not taking a "single serious step" toward a nuclear-weapon-free world in the nearly 45 years since the NPT was signed, a claim disputed by Russia and the United States.

Uliyanov said Tuesday that Russia`s strategic nuclear arsenals have decreased by more than 80 per cent and its non-strategic arsenals by 75 per cent over the last 25 years.