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Sat 17 May 2008 01:08 PM

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Russia upbeat on Iran negotiations

Moscow hopes to meet with other world powers in Tehran soon to offer Islamic republic new proposals for talks.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Friday it hoped the six nations negotiating with Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment programme could meet in Tehran soon to offer the Islamic republic new proposals for talks.

"We hope in the near future Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, will be able to meet in Tehran EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and deputy foreign ministers of the six countries who must hand Iran a revised package of proposals for talks," the ministry said in a statement.

Moscow said it was "attentively studying" Iran's latest proposals and would consult its partners in the "big six".

"During our meetings in Tehran representatives of the six could give their preliminary reaction to Iran's proposals."

The US reiterated it would not send a representative with Solana to deliver the new incentives.

"We are not going to have a physical presence there," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

He said the major powers had completed work on details of the package and accompanying letter and Solana's office would contact the Iranian government to settle a date and venue for a meeting to hand over and discuss the refreshed deal.

McCormack said the US would only meet Iranian officials on the nuclear dossier once Tehran agreed to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities.

"Absent that, the United States will not have a representative [at the meeting to hand over the new deal]," he added.

Western diplomats signalled earlier on Friday that Iran's move to defuse a stand-off with world powers over its uranium enrichment programme would not be addressed unless Tehran suspended sensitive nuclear activity first.

Iran this week attempted to deflect concern over its nuclear agenda by proposing negotiations on a broad range of world problems, while underlining that the Islamic republic did not regard its enrichment campaign as one of them.

Earlier this week Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the six powers could "give Iran security guarantees and ensure a more distinguished place in negotiations on the situation in the Middle East".

But hours later, Washington opposed offering Iran security guarantees to encourage it to suspend nuclear activity.

Asked to elaborate on Lavrov's comment on security guarantees, Russian Ambassador to Britain Yuri Fedotov told newswire Reuters on Friday: "That is one of the issues which are raised from time to time by the Iranian side and we believe it's a legitimate concern that should be somehow met."

"So that is a possibility."

The six nations negotiating with Iran are Russia, the US, China, Britain, France and Germany. (Reuters)

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