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    RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR COOPERATION WITH IAEA IN TACKLING IRAN NUCLEAR PROBLEM

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    MOSCOW, March 17, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - "We believe that all issues related to Iran's nuclear programme should be settled in cooperation with the IAEA," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a Moscow news conference on Wednesday.

    Mr. Lavrov recalled that Iran had signed an additional protocol on IAEA guarantees and was cooperating with the organisation.

    "We are calling on Iran to maintain close cooperation with the Agency on this issue," said the minister.

    The way to finally shut the Iranian dossier lies through cooperation between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to Mr. Lavrov. The foreign minister said he maintained regular contacts with Iran's authorities. At the weekend, for example, he held a telephone conference with his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharrazi.

    Moscow believes the timeframe for the IAEA's new inspections in Iran will hopefully be set in the near future, according to Mr. Lavrov. (An Iranian official said earlier that Iran was prepared to receive international inspectors on March 27 after New Year celebrations in the country).

    Mr. Lavrov also requested the countries accusing Russia of supplying Iran with weapons to substantiate their accusations.

    "Claims that Iran possesses Russian-made weapons must be substantiated, said Mr. Lavrov. Besides, Russian weapons could have been supplied to Iran by third countries. Anyway, there will be no discussion of the matter until relevant evidence is furnished." Russia was many times accused of having sold weapons to Iran. "However, Russia has not been confronted with facts thus far," emphasised Mr. Lavrov. Moreover, many countries, including the United States, had to go back on their own claims.

    Russia believes that sanctions whatsoever against Latvia are not a proper solution to the problem of Russian speakers' rights in the republic. "Talks are the best way to resolve the problem," said the foreign minister.

    "We do not advocate a unilateral approach to settling problems. We try to approach them from the international law perspective and hope Latvia, too, will proceed from international norms when tackling issues related to its Russian-speaking population," said Mr. Lavrov.

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