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Iran, Russia Say They Are Close To Nuclear Deal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (file photo) 10 October 2004 -- Iran and Russia say they are close to finalizing a protocol on returning spent nuclear fuel to Russia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference in Tehran today that the agreement is in its final stage. Such a deal would pave the way for the start-up of a Russian-built nuclear power plant at Bushehr in southern Iran in 2006.

Moscow has said it will not ship nuclear fuel to Iran until both countries sign an agreement under which all spent fuel are returned to Russia. The agreement is intended to prevent Iran from using spent fuel to make nuclear weapons.

Lavrov also called on Iran to implement a demand from the International Atomic Energy Agency that it freeze all work on uranium-enrichment activities, including uranium reprocessing.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi rejected the call.

Still, Lavrov said Moscow is opposed to seeing Iran referred to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program.

The United States has repeatedly accused Tehran of maintaining a covert program to develop nuclear weapons.