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    Iran set to expand nuclear cooperation with Russia - 1

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    "Our cooperation has broad possibilities, and we are therefore determined to expand peaceful uses of nuclear energy," Golam Reza Agazade, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said at the opening of a meeting with Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Russian Federal Nuclear Power Agency.

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    TEHRAN, December 11 (RIA Novosti) - Iran regards Russia as a priority partner in nuclear cooperation, Iran's nuclear chief said Monday.

    "Our cooperation has broad possibilities, and we are therefore determined to expand peaceful uses of nuclear energy," Golam Reza Agazade, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said at the opening of a meeting with Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Russian Federal Nuclear Power Agency.

    Russia's top nuclear official is now in Tehran for talks on the completion of the country's first nuclear power plant in Bushehr, which is being built by Russia.

    Kiriyenko told Agazade that he "had a successful meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki."

    "The core element of our work is cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. So our meeting today is of special importance," Kiriyenko said.

    Iran started up a second experimental chain of 164 centrifuges at its pilot nuclear facility at Natanzin in October, and said it will launch a total of 3,000 centrifuges there by next March. The long-term target is 60,000, enough to advance to industrial-scale enrichment.

    Following the resumption of uranium enrichment in January, the Islamic Republic announced plans to develop full nuclear fuel cycle technology for civilian purposes. The decision has compounded Western concerns over Iran's nuclear program, which some countries suspect is a cover for nuclear weapons development.

    "But this does not mean we are not examining other proposals, including the Russian proposal [to establish a joint uranium enrichment venture]. The Russian proposal is on the agenda," the Iranian foreign minister said earlier Monday.

    In a bid to soften possible sanctions against Iran that some members of the UN Security Council have been pressing for, Russia proposed to set up a joint venture to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian soil, but the proposal has not met with a definite response so far.

    European powers have drawn up new proposals on sanctions against the Islamic Republic for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment and allow random inspections following objections from Russia and China, which are key economic partners of Tehran and who consider the previous draft excessively harsh.

    Sanctions against Iran proposed by Britain, France and Germany in the previous draft envisaged a ban on sales of missile and nuclear technologies to the country, freezing its military bank accounts, and imposing visa restrictions on Iranian officials linked to the nuclear industry.

    Under the draft, the construction of Russia's Bushehr NPP in southern Iran would not have been banned, but fuel supplies to the plant would have been restricted. But the new draft does not contain any provisions concerning the $1 billion project.

    Russia has consistently supported Tehran's right to nuclear power under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, an international document limiting the spread of nuclear weapons and enforcing the right to peacefully use nuclear technology.

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