Russia 'regrets' Iran enriching uranium in bunker

Traditional ally of Tehran continues recent escalation in criticism of Iranian nuclear program as underground facility opens.

Iranian nuclear program 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian nuclear program 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
MOSCOW - Moscow regrets Tehran's decision to enrich uranium near the city of Qom, Itar-Tass news agency quoted a foreign ministry official as saying on Tuesday, echoing Western concern over Iran's transfer of enrichment to a site deep inside a mountain.
Iran confirmed on Monday that it had started enrichment at the Fordow bunker near the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Qom. Tehran denies Western suspicions that its nuclear program has military goals, saying it is for purely peaceful purposes.
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"Moscow has met reports on the start of uranium enrichment at an Iranian plant near Qom with regret and concern," Itar-Tass quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.
Russia, which helped build Iran's first nuclear plant in Bushehr, has recently increased its criticism of Tehran's nuclear program.
"We should recognize that Iran is continuing to ignore the demands of the international community that it respond to their concerns regarding its nuclear program," the official was quoted as saying.
The US imposed additional sanctions on Iran last month and the EU is expected to agree a ban on imports of Iranian oil later this month.
Tehran reacted by threatening to shut the Strait of Hormuz, the outlet for 40 percent of the world's traded oil, if its oil exports were targeted, raising tension in the region.
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Moscow, which has traditionally seen itself as a peacemaker in the region, has called on Tehran and its opponents to act with moderation.
"Moscow calls on all the sides engaged in the process ... involving Iran and its nuclear program to abstain from ill-judged and violent steps," the ministry official was quoted as saying.