Skip to comments.Iranian Alert - October 12, 2004 [EST]- IRAN LIVE THREAD - "Americans for Regime Change in Iran"
Posted on 10/11/2004 9:43:47 PM PDT by DoctorZIn
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|11 October 2004|
"If Iran on its side is willing to suspend all activities in the field of enrichment for peaceful purposes, we are willing to continue with the dialogue," said Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot.
He described the EU's policy towards Tehran as one of "engagement with a large number of incentives," including a trade agreement "and a number of other measures ... to intensify our cooperation with that country."
He was speaking after the EU, which has long sought a policy of engagement with Tehran in contrast to the US isolationist stance, discussed the issue at a regular monthly meeting of foreign ministers.
Tension is rising ahead of a November meeting of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) directors, where Washington is expected to raise the stakes by calling for the Iran nuclear issue to be sent to the UN Security Council.
EU leaders have expressed disappointment with Iran since February elections there which saw the return to power of hardliners.
The Dutch minister added that human rights remains a key concern.
"We still should send a strong signal that we think that that aspect is very important in our policy," he said.
"We believe the EU should stand united and show its determination both as far as the engagement policy is concerned and of course as far as the condition is concerned that Iran suspends its enrichment activities," he added.
| NICOSIA [MENL] -- Hamas has been discussing with Iran the launch of a major attack against an Israeli or Jewish installation outside of the Middle East.
Western intelligence sources said Hamas has sought Iran's help in financing and planning a major strike on an Israeli embassy or Jewish facility that would deter Israel from attacking the leadership of the Islamic insurgency group. The sources said Hamas has urged Teheran to provide the same support granted for the mass casualty strikes against Israeli and Jewish targets in Buenos Aires in the early 1990s in which 114 people were killed.
"Hamas does not have the depth for any major attack on an Israeli installation outside of the Middle East," an intelligence source said. "For this, it needs an ally such as Iran, with experience in and capabilities for such attacks."
In September, Israel's intelligence community was on alert for a mass casualty attack on Israeli tourists in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Egypt has suspected Hamas or Palestinian involvement in the Oct. 7 bombings of tourist sites frequented by Israelis in the Sinai, in which 34 people were killed, 12 of them Israelis.
Washington, DC - The US is making new charges that Iran is secretly developing a nuclear bomb, with the latest revelations based on satellite images of an Iranian military-run industrial facility.
Washington says the facilities of the Defence Industries Organisation (DIO) in Parchin, 30km southeast of Tehran, are related to Tehran's nuclear programme and that this is probably the location where work on weaponising nuclear material into an atomic bomb is occurring.
Sources familiar with the site said it looks like Iran possesses "the whole package deal" needed for weaponising nuclear material, including test ranges for high-explosives, armaments facilities and precision machining capabilities. US officials said they suspect Parchin is the ultimate destination of a number of pieces of equipment suspected of being imported by Iran for its nuclear programme. That equipment, such as high-speed cameras, can be used in the production of nuclear weapons but also has civilian applications.
After months of the book sitting atop the newspaper's own best-seller list, the New York Times Sunday Book Review has finally taken the time to review "Unfit for Command."
In the opening line of the review, the Times admits the serious influence the book could have in American political history:
"If John Kerry loses the presidential election, 'Unfit for Command,' by John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi, will go down as a chief reason. The book - a sort of companion piece to the political attack ads placed by O'Neill's group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth - is a furious assault on Kerry's character and service in Vietnam."
A SMCCDI Press Conference will take place on Thursday October 14, 2004, from 09:15 AM at the Washington DC's National Press Club located at 529 14th Street NW Washington, DC 20045. The meeting will be held in the "1st Amendment room" located on the NPC's 13th floor.
The subject of the conference will be "Senator Kerry and the Islamic regime influence on US elections."
In addition to Aryo B. Pirouznia, the Movement's Coordinator, the guest speakers will be Dr. Jerome R. Corsi, writer of the No.1 New York Times best-seller "Unfit for Command - Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry" , the investigative reporter Kenneth Timmerman ; And the Honorable Robert Jenevein (of the "Brady & Cole LLP") and Conselor Michael Payma (of the "Law Offices of Payma & Kuhnel PC") who are composing the Movement's defense team.
The SMCCDI and its Coordinator are in a juridical litigation with Hassan Nemazee, "Kerry's Iranian Connection", known as an Islamic republic apologist. A website that is launched by SMCCDI's Counselors to keep abreast of matters relating to this case is: www.regimeinfluence.com
A Q&A session will be held after the speeches with members of the Press.
For reservation or information, contact: (214) 906-8181
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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iraq on Monday released 130 Iranians arrested for crossing the border illegally, but another 270 remain behind bars, Iran's top diplomat in Baghdad told state television.
Washington and some officials in Iraq's interim government have accused Iran of meddling in Iraq's affairs and allowing weapons and fighters to cross their long border. Iran denies this accusation.
Iranian Charge d'Affaires Hassan Qomi described the detainees as pilgrims who had tried to visit holy Shi'ite Muslim sites in Iraq without the proper documentation.
He said the 130 Iranians freed on Monday had all been held in the town of Kut. Another 71 were expected to be released in coming days. Before Monday's releases more than 400 Iranians were being held in various jails in Iraq, he added.
"In the next month we hope to solve the issue of Iranian pilgrims traveling to Iraq," Qomi said.
ASHINGTON, Oct. 11 - The Bush administration is holding talks with its European allies on a possible package of economic incentives for Iran, including access to imported nuclear fuel, in return for suspension of uranium enrichment activities that are suspected to be part of a nuclear arms program, European and American diplomats said Monday.
The diplomats said that while the administration had not endorsed any incentives for Iran, it was not discouraging Britain, France and Germany from assembling a package that the administration would consider after the American presidential election on Nov. 2, for likely presentation to Tehran later in the month.
Any support of a package of incentives, even if it is to be offered only by the Europeans, would indicate a significant shift in the Bush administration policy of demanding penalties, but not offering inducements, to get Iran to halt activities that are suspected to be for a nuclear arms program.
European diplomats said that the administration was very squeamish about even discussing incentives, in part because it would represent a policy reversal that would provoke a vigorous internal debate, and in part because of the presidential campaign. Senator John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, has made Iran an issue, criticizing the administration for not working more closely with European nations. Mr. Kerry has said that if elected he would endorse a deal supplying Iran with civilian nuclear fuel under tight restrictions and would press for sanctions if Iran refused.
Under prodding from the United States, the International Atomic Energy Agency has set late November as the deadline by which Iran must comply with demands that it do more to disclose its nuclear activities. The United States wants to send the matter to the United Nations Security Council for discussion of sanctions if there is no compliance.
"The Europeans are in discussion to present some kind of package to present to Iran within the short window of opportunity between the American election and the end of November," said a European diplomat. "If it works, fine. If it doesn't work, we are going to have to talk about sanctions."
The package under discussion, besides allowing Iran to import nuclear fuel for the civilian reactor it is planning to install at Bushehr, might also lift certain economic penalties on Iran, allowing it to import spare parts for its ailing civilian airline.
But the discussions with the Europeans are also said to include specifics on what sanctions would be sought if Iran turns down any incentives presented by the Europeans, the European and American diplomats said. Because there may not be enough votes for sanctions on the Security Council, sanctions might only be adopted by the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Japan.
"If there is going to be a substantial Iran policy, it has to have incentives for Iran or it may not work," said a European diplomat. Another European diplomat said that although the incentives had not been fleshed out for endorsement in Washington, there had been "an ongoing process of discussion between the Europeans and the Americans" and that whatever the Europeans come up with next month "will not come as a surprise" to Washington.
European officials said that whether or not President Bush is re-elected, the administration could find itself facing a tough deadline and divided over how to proceed.
Details of the highly sensitive talks on Iran between Europe and the United States have begun to leak out in Europe and were disclosed by European officials who advocate an approach of some conciliation toward Iran as the only way to change its behavior.
Foreign ministers of the European Union, who met Monday in Luxembourg, said that they supported the approach of what officials called "carrots and sticks" for the government in Tehran.
After these disclosures, an administration official subsequently confirmed that the discussions with European nations were under way. "We are still dealing with theoreticals," said the American official, adding that the discussions were intense.
Officials knowledgeable about the package under discussion say that many of the details still need to be fleshed out. But they say that American sanctions on Iran would have to be lifted in order for the package to be accepted.
The package being discussed would, among other things, let Iran import nuclear fuel from Russia for its reactor at Bushehr, under an agreement in which Russia would then re-import the spent fuel and store it. In return, Iran would suspend its enrichment of 37 tons of yellowcake, which is nearly raw uranium.
In addition, the package would lift a ban on exports to Iran of certain badly needed civilian aircraft parts, without which its fleet of civilian airliners has been virtually grounded.
The discussions also concern what to do if Iran turns down the offer, European officials said. One possible step under discussion would be to circumvent the United Nations Security Council, because two members of that body with vetoes, Russia and China, oppose sanctions. Instead, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Japan, the five biggest economic powers in the world, would impose penalties on Iran.
A European diplomat familiar with the discussions with the Bush administration said that Britain, France and Germany were discussing the package of incentives to be offered Iran but that its ingredients were far from settled.
"We need to have a quiet discussion with the Americans to know what we put in the package," he said.
He added that there was "an ongoing process of discussion between the Europeans and the Americans" so that, even though the United States does not know the details of the incentive package, "the final proposal will not come as a surprise."
There are actually two late-November deadlines looming on Iran. One is the scheduled meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is supposed to rule on the American demand that its board of governors refer Iran's actions to the Security Council.
Another is the late-November meeting of an international conference on Iraq, which is to occur in Egypt and involve Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and his Iranian counterpart, in what would be their first face-to-face encounter.
The main focus of American and European concern, administration and European officials and experts say, is the recent finding by the atomic energy agency that Iran possesses 37 tons of yellowcake and that it appears determined to enrich the material with the use of centrifuges, producing material suitable for a weapon.
Another concern is the nuclear reactor at Bushehr, which Russia has agreed to supply with fuel, taking the spent fuel back for reprocessing once it has been used in Iran. That deal has been suspended at the request of the United States. It would resume under the plan being discussed by the Europeans, according to European diplomats.
Iran maintains that it only wants to enrich the yellowcake for energy purposes, and that it has the right to do so under all international agreements that it has signed. The European approach is to use the incentives to get Iran to suspend its enrichment activities permanently, in a way that respects its sovereign right to enrich for fuel purposes.
The delicacy of confronting Iran has been underscored by its injection in the last two presidential debates.
Administration officials say that their preferred approach so far has been to let the three European Union nations take the lead with Iran and report back to Washington, rather than have the United States get involved in dealing directly with Iran.
Even a partial strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would set back Teheran's efforts to get nuclear weapons, the head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies said Monday.
Presenting the center's annual Middle East Strategic Balance, Prof. Shai Feldman also said the US-led war in Iraq "has become a major distraction from the global war on terrorism."
"Iraq has now become a convenient arena for jihad, which has helped al-Qaida to recover," the annual report said. "The US presence in Iraq now demands more and more assets that might have otherwise been deployed against various dimensions of the global terrorist threat such as the kind we saw this past weekend."
He was referring to the two bombing attacks in the Sinai that killed at least 32 people, including 12 Israelis.
Still, the think tank based at Tel Aviv University held that Israel's overall strategic situation has improved. It said, though, that despite tactical success in quashing Palestinian terror, there is currently no resolution of that conflict in sight and growing extremism on both sides.
The threat of conventional war is low and the qualitative gap, even between Israel and Egypt, is increasing.
Feldman also pointed out that Israel did not reach out to the extended Syrian overtures to resume peace talks, thus losing an opportunity to reap considerable positive strategic benefits.
Iran is said to be "closer than ever before" to producing fissile material essential for making nuclear bombs. Consequently, the US "seems closer to the possible use of force to prevent Iran from completing its nuclear program."
Ephraim Kam, deputy head of the center, said any military strike would be very complicated and not at all resemble the surprise 1981 IAF strike on the Iraqi reactor at Osirak. Iran learned from that and has spread out its installations.
Feldman said this should not prevent the option of military strike.
"There is a logic to operating against Iran even if the location of every facility is not known, because just taking out the facilities that are known, especially if they include the enrichment and heavy water plants, would in itself create a serious degradation of the Iranian potential," he said.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shlomo Brom, a senior researcher at the center, said that theoretically a nuclear balance could be forged between Israel and Iran. But he warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would likely set off a chain reaction, with nations like Egypt and Saudi Arabia seeking to obtain atomic bombs, further destabilizing the Middle East. He also said it was "wishful thinking" to believe that the mullahs in Teheran would become more responsible leaders once they obtained nuclear weapons.
He said an Israeli military option exists, but is highly problematic and requires a sustainable operation beyond the IDF's capability.
"Iran is far away and to reach it you have to pass over Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, or other Persian Gulf states. You can get entangled along the way. It is hard for me to imagine that the Americans would coordinate or cooperate with us, because if that was ever published it would greatly harm their position, which is already at a low point in the Middle East," said Brom, a former air force intelligence officer.
The think tank's annual report marked Israel's impressive achievements in the war on Palestinian terror. This is particularly impressive, it said, in contrast with experiences elsewhere, especially in Iraq.
But the experts said the virtue of this tactical "success" in defeating Palestinian terror is also its major flaw since it creates extremism on both sides.
"We did not succeed in breaking, halting, or even significantly reducing the Palestinian motivation against Israel, maybe the contrary," said Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Meir Elran, an expert on national security. "The situation actually feeds the hatred and opposition to the occupation."
On the other hand, he said, the four-year conflict also shows that Israeli society is not crumbling in the face of terror but rather displaying amazing normality.
"But the situation in 2004, even though it is better tactically, is not much better than in the past. We cannot point at anything that says we are headed toward stability and calm," he said.
Feldman said Israel's failure to take up peace talks with Damascus was unfortunate because it could have led to considerable strategic benefits, such as restricting Hizbullah.
"A peace treaty with Syria would also diminish the political context of continuation of tension with Iran," Feldman said. "I'm not sure people on our side take into account the full array of implications of a peace treaty with Syria."
But he added that there is no certainty a peace treaty with Syria can be achieved.
He said that this situation was created by the government which feels it cannot hold negotiations on two fronts. The public, too, is not free of blame as they have not taken to the streets pushing to renew talks with Damascus.
Post #13 was forwarded by Siavash.
October 12, 2004, 8:29 a.m.
Three years ago, the people of Afghanistan suffered under the rule of the Taliban the "students" who were subjecting them to an experiment in utopianism. I will not catalogue here the record of inhumanity of the former regime there is hardly space but we can at least recognize it for what it was, a totalitarian police state exploiting religion as the legitimizing agent for its excesses, a case study in millenarian ideology made manifest. In its symbols, its structures, and its practices, Taliban Afghanistan was on par with any of the great modern autocratic experiments. Their body count may not rival the extraordinary totals racked up by the Khmer Rouge, but in hostility to the human spirit the Taliban took a backseat to no one. This is the necessary context to appreciate 65-year-old grandmother Zahooba's statement on her way to cast her ballot in the Afghan presidential election, "I am so happy, it's like a dream. I feel that we are finally human."
It would be a mistake to see the Taliban, or indeed any similar regimes in the developing world as being an inevitable or natural consequence of human social or political development. After all, 50 years ago Afghanistan was relatively peaceful and prosperous. A test election was held in 1952, and women first voted in 1965. But the notion that history evolves in linear and predictable stages has become so ingrained in people's thinking about development that episodes such as the socialist and Taliban periods are seen as inevitable features of an unfolding plan. This usually unspoken premise leads to acceptance; whatever happens probably has to happen, regardless of how evil it may seem. Anyway "evil" is a subjective value judgment, and who are we to question the cultural constructs of the Afghan people? However, the Taliban interregnum was not a natural episode through which Afghanistan had to pass; it was the preventable product of a decade of neglect by the civilized world. It resulted in part from the withdrawal of the international community (in particular the United States) following the defeat of the Soviet Union and the eventual collapse of the Afghan socialist government. The fractious coalition that followed, which included members such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a U.S. ally against the Soviets who declared jihad against us in 2002, was not given the support it needed to succeed. It became an easy target for the Taliban, a young movement given significant support by Pakistan. Pakistan too had been neglected by the West after 1989. Neglect turned to estrangement in 1998 after Pakistan tested a nuclear weapon, which evolved to total isolation in 1999 after a military coup installed General Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan was backed into a corner, and responded by reaching out to countries with common interests, such as North Korea and China. Meanwhile Osama bin Laden had established his terror base in Afghanistan working with his Taliban patrons. The U.S. policy failures and strategic myopia of the 1990s helped create the problems that we are now working vigorously to solve.
The election is a milestone on the new road to Afghan democracy, but not the first one. The election was the result of many measured steps, from the June 2002 Loya Jirga (grand council in this case of Afghan leaders, most of whom were elected) that selected Hamid Karzai as interim president, to the eleven months of work by the constitutional commission that held local meetings for public input, to the constitutional convention that debated the draft. There has been a great deal of democratic politics and by that, I mean compromise leading up to this election. In addition, in early 2005, Afghans will elect members of the bicameral National Assembly, completing a process begun three months after the 9/11 attacks. It is noteworthy that the election came off without significant violence, especially after the Taliban had threatened to create nation-wide chaos. "The Taliban warned us but we are not scared," said Rahgul, a 45-year-old woman. "We are Afghans." Taliban spokesman Mufti Larifullah Hakimi, conceded that Saturday just wasn't their day. "We tried our best to strike in the urban centers," he said, "but the tight security foiled our plans." The Australian elections held on the same day were also free of an Al Qaeda attack, though rumor has it that a terrorist operation was broken up before it could be executed. The terrorists are trying to replicate the effect of the March 11 Madrid bombings that contributed to changing the Spanish government, which does not bode well for the U.S. in the next few weeks, though hopefully our security will be effective.
The election was not only peaceful but also mostly free and fair, according to international observers. Nevertheless, this did not stop 15 of 18 candidates from threatening to boycott the results of the election for alleged irregularities. Their timing was perfect, registering their complaints on the day of the election but before the polls closed, so they could get credit for participating, but not be accused of sour grapes. But the move was probably a negotiating posture. Yunus Qanooni, the strongest challenger to Karzai, quickly backed out of the boycott, saying he would accept the verdict of a three-person panel convening to review the election process. Others soon followed. It is believed that Qanooni secured an understanding for a position in the new government. As well, he may have been trying to jump-start a united front in case Karzai did not achieve the necessary majority to forestall a runoff, but exit polls indicated Karzai won outright, so it was a good time for Qanooni to cut a deal. Democracy takes many forms.
Saturday was a great day for freedom. More than anything the Afghan election reaffirms that given the opportunity people will exercise their sovereign rights to self-rule, that they understand what the process is and what it means. It is the natural state of humanity to desire this ability to influence events, even if it is historically rare that they get the chance. Afghanistan is a poor country, emerging from three decades of civil war, foreign occupation, and extremism, with low life expectancy, less than 50-percent literacy, and no deeply rooted electoral traditions. Nevertheless, the Afghan people rejoiced in their exercise of the franchise; freedom is not something that needs to be taught. Likewise it was a bad day for the enemies of liberty, and it must be galling for them as they crouch in their caves and peer through the window slats of their safe houses to think about the sense of elation and optimism throughout their former dismal paradise. Those ingrates.
James S. Robbins is senior fellow in national-security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council and an NRO contributor.
Iranian Nuclear Threat 'Out of Control', Analysis Says
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Despite extensive international pressure, the threat of Iran becoming a nuclear power has not been neutralized and is "out of control" at the moment, analysts here said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has given Iran until late November to give a complete report on its nuclear development program.
Oil-rich Iran insists that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes. But the U.S. is convinced that Iran is using the cover of a civilian nuclear program to pursue an atomic bomb.
U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton recently said that the Iranian nuclear weapons program, which the U.S. has been trying to refer to the U.N. Security Council for more than a year, amounts to "a threat of international peace and security." He said Iran needed to be put in the "international spotlight" to explain what it is doing.
But analysts here said despite the world attention focused on Iran, Tehran has not backed down from its nuclear aspirations.
Dr. Shai Feldman, head of Tel Aviv University's Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies, said over the past year, there has been "dangerous progress in Iran's nuclear program, particularly in the realm of uranium enrichment."
Feldman said Iran is now closer than ever to producing the fissile material from which nuclear weapons can be manufactured. "This is of course a major challenge to the international community," he said.
However, there is also a growing "international awareness" of the problem -- unlike the situation in the late 1970s and 80s, when Iraq was also pursuing nuclear weapons.
In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor shortly before it was to become radioactive. The bombing brought Israel international condemnation, but 10 years later at the start of the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq, Western leaders thanked Israel for its foresight.
"To the extent that the Israeli military operation in 1981 was propelled by the international indifference to what the Iraqis were doing -- that is not exactly the case right now with respect to Iran," Feldman said.
While he was not willing to guess at the likelihood that Israel might launch a military strike against Iran's nuclear reactor, Feldman said that the U.S. seemed closer than ever to possibly using force against Iran.
"The U.S. has stated on more than one occasion that Iran's possession [of nuclear weapons] is unacceptable. There is a process to prevent it through diplomacy [but] time is running out," Feldman said.
Iran has continued to work on its equipment for the enrichment of uranium, a process that can be used for civilian purposes or to make an atomic bomb.
The U.S. and other are realizing that the situation is "reaching a critical point," he said, where the "means of dissuading" the Iranians are being exhausted.
"They've been given one last chance before this is referred to the UN Security Council. This is an indication that this problem has not been dealt with [and] to a large extent is out of control at the moment," he said.
According to an article in the New York Times on Tuesday, the Bush administration is talking with its European allies on the possibility of offering Iran a package of "economic incentives" -- including the possibility of importing nuclear fuel and the lifting of economic penalties that would allow Iran to import spare parts for its aging civilian airlines -- in exchange for a suspension of its uranium enrichment program.
Such a move would be a complete turnaround for the administration, which has been reluctant to offer incentives and instead has been calling for the matter to be referred to the Security Council, where sanctions would be slapped on Tehran for non-compliance.
Despite the situation, Feldman said, as long as the Iranians have not yet begun enrichment, they have not reached the point of no return.
While Iran would probably never declare all its nuclear activities, the IAEA would be involved in verifying if Iran was fulfilling steps to which it had committed itself.
There have been many cases in the past, he said, where countries reversed their course under international pressure and abandoned their pursuit of or possession of nuclear weapons, such as in South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and Taiwan, he said.
If the acquisition can be postponed for five or 10 years, leaders can change, he said. "Time is very important."
Iranian Minister Reaffirms Right To Enrich Uranium
Kharrazi's remarks come a day after Iran said it remains committed to international nuclear safeguards only if it is allowed to master the entire nuclear fuel cycle, including enriching uranium.
The UN's atomic energy agency has called on Iran to halt all activities related to developing enriched uranium -- which can be used to produce nuclear weapons.
Earlier today, an IAEA inspection team arrived in Tehran on a routine visit to inspect a military complex near the Iranian capital.
With Russian Help, Iran Edges Closer to Nuclear Status
Moscow (CNSNews.com) - Shrugging off Western concerns, Russia is moving ahead with plans to supply Iran with nuclear fuel while trying to convince the Islamic republic to comply with U.N. calls to stop enriching uranium.
Iran and Russia have negotiated an agreement under which Tehran will return spent nuclear fuel to Russia, paving the way for a Russian-built 1,000-megawatt light-water nuclear reactor at Bushehr to be completed and eventually begin operations.
"The agreement on returning spent nuclear fuel is in the final stage," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters during an Oct. 10-11 visit to Iran. "I think it will be signed soon."
Moscow said earlier it would not send any nuclear fuel to Iran until the deal is signed. The head of Russia's nuclear energy agency, Alexander Rumyantsev, said that should happen this month.
Under the deal, waste produced at Bushehr containing plutonium that could be used for bomb-making would be shipped back to Russia for storage.
But the material must first be cooled, providing Iran with up to two years during which -- some Western countries fear -- it could extract the plutonium for weapons purposes.
Despite signs that an agreement on returning spent fuel was imminent, Russia and Iran remain at odds over Iran's uranium-enrichment program.
Under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is allowed to enrich uranium, but it has come under international pressure not to do so because of concerns that it may be pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
Lavrov noted that the board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has called on Iran to stop enriching uranium.
It would be in the interests of Iran and others if it responded positively, the Russian said.
But his host, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, made it clear that would not happen.
"Nuclear technology, including enriching uranium, is Iran's legitimate right," he said. "There is no talk of stopping it."
Lavrov voiced concern that if Iran did not comply, it could face referral to the U.N. Security Council, which could in turn lead to sanctions.
If imposed, sanctions could threaten the lucrative Bushehr project.
Lavrov said Russia would oppose any attempt to refer Iran to the Security Council, as such a move would be "counter-productive."
Russia has long resisted outside pressure to stop helping Iran develop a nuclear capability by building the Bushehr plant.
Russian officials allege that the criticism is prompted by commercial considerations, saying "competitors" were trying to undermine Russia's nuclear energy exports.
The U.S. and Israel accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, and critics warn that the collaboration could destabilize an already volatile Middle East.
The Sunday Times of London has cited an unnamed Israeli defense source as saying Israel would never allow the Bushehr reactor to go critical and a senior U.S. official as saying it was unlikely Washington would try to block any Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Three months ago, Israel reportedly conducted exercises for a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear targets using long-range F-15I jets.
Israel estimates that without intervention, Iran -- a sworn enemy of the Jewish state -- will be able to build a nuclear bomb by 2007, according to a leaked intelligence report.
Top Kerry Donor Faces Iranian Propaganda Allegations
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