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Russia denies any new Iran proposal

Washington, March 7 (Reuters): Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov denied today that Russia has a new proposal to curb Iran’s nuclear programmes, a day after Washington rejected an idea to allow Tehran atomic research that diplomats said Moscow had floated.

“There is no compromise new proposal,” Lavrov said at a joint news conference with US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in Washington.

Rice underscored the point. “The Russians did not tell us of any new proposal that they have made to the Iranians,” she said.

Russia has held talks with Iran seeking to end a standoff between Iran and the West that would head off a US drive for the UN Security Council to take action this month against Tehran for failing to dispel suspicions it wants a nuclear bomb.

A US official, who was briefed on Moscow’s idea, said Russia did want to find a face-saving way for Iran to agree to refrain from enriching uranium on an industrial scale while conducting small-scale research.

But the US opposition ' on the grounds Iran could use any research to master technology to build bombs ' stopped Russia from making its idea a formal proposal, said the official, who asked to remain anonymous because Moscow did not make the idea public.

“If the regime were allowed to pursue any sort of enrichment-related activity on its own soil it could use the technology developed in a clandestine way to develop nuclear weapons. That is simply not acceptable,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

Earlier, Russia offered to let Iran do some atomic research if it refrains from enriching uranium on an industrial scale for 7 to 9 years, diplomats said.

Iran reacted coolly, with one diplomat saying Tehran could accept a two-year moratorium on industrial atomic fuel production, but not longer, in exchange for centrifuge research. And he said Iran’s idea of research entailed running 3,000 enrichment centrifuges, which the West would consider industrial-scale and could yield highly enriched uranium.

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