Lavrov: 'No proof Iran had nuke program'

Russian foreign minister says US intel report undermines bid for new UN sanctions.

sergev Lavrov 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
sergev Lavrov 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Russia's foreign minister said Wednesday there was no proof that Iran has ever run a nuclear weapons program, and praised Teheran for its readiness to cooperate with the United Nations nuclear watchdog. "Data that we have seen don't allow to say with certainty that Iran has ever had a nuclear weapons program," Sergei Lavrov said when asked to comment on the US intelligence report saying that Iran suspended its efforts to develop nuclear weapons in 2003. He said he was referring to the intelligence data which Washington had provided to Moscow as part of a dialogue on Iran over the past few years. Lavrov indicated that the US acknowledgment that Iran halted a suspected nuclear weapons bid in 2003 undermined Washington's push for a new set of UN sanctions against Iran. "We will assess the situation regarding a new UN Security Council resolution taking into account all these factors, including the public US confirmation that there is no information about the existence of a covert nuclear weapons program in Iran," Lavrov told reporters after talks with his Armenian counterpart. "We have no information that such efforts had been conducted before 2003, even though our American colleagues said it was so," Lavrov said. Russia and China, another important ally of Iran, have grudgingly approved two sets of limited UN sanctions against Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. But the Kremlin has bristled at the US push for tougher measures, saying they would only widen the rift. Lavrov said the International Atomic Energy Agency should continue its work in Iran to clarify all outstanding issues related to Tehran's nuclear program. "Naturally, we will need a full clarity," he said. "We support the IAEA's activities, which the IAEA and Iran have pledged to actively pursue. We support Iran's determination to do that ... and we will determine our future steps based on professional expert conclusions of the IAEA." On Tuesday, Russia's President Vladimir Putin told Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, that Tehran's nuclear program should be transparent and remain under control of the UN nuclear watchdog. Lavrov said that Putin urged Jalili to fully cooperate with the IAEA, answer all its questions and also meet international demands to freeze its uranium enrichment program. Russia has taken a careful stance on Iran, where it is building a $1 billion nuclear reactor, seeking to preserve economic and political ties with Teheran without angering the West. During his trip to Iran in October, Putin promised that Russia would complete the Bushehr plant, but refused to say when it could begin operations.