#11 - JRL 7170
Russia: No Sign Iran Sought Banned Nukes
May 6, 2003
MOSCOW (AP) - In a rebuff to the United States, a top Russian diplomat said Tuesday there was no evidence Iran pursued a nuclear weapons capability in violation of the international nonproliferation agreement.
Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov contradicted allegations about Iran's nuclear program that U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton made Monday in Moscow. Bolton had sought to persuade Russian officials to acknowledge Tehran has a clandestine weapons program and to win Russian support for a critical report on Iran's nuclear efforts by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA.
``Very sound evidence is needed to accuse anyone. So far, neither the United States nor any other countries can present it,'' Losyukov said, according to the Interfax news agency.
Losyukov did acknowledge that Iran's nuclear program had some uncertainties, and that Moscow would work with Tehran to ``add more transparency'' to its program. As for Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation, Losyukov said the work was ``strictly in line with IAEA norms.''
Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran has long been a contentious issue between Washington and Moscow. The United States claims that the technology and expertise Iran is gaining from Russia's construction of the $800 million Bushehr nuclear power plant could be used for a weapons program, and that Russian companies - perhaps without official permission - have transferred weapons technology to Tehran.
Losyukov also contradicted Bolton's claim that Russia and the United States see eye-to-eye on how to handle the North Korean nuclear crisis. Bolton said Monday that neither Washington nor Moscow would like to see a nuclear-armed North Korea and that both favored multilateral talks on the problem.
``We stand for the negotiating process,'' Losyukov said. ``John Bolton said that the United States also stands for a peaceful, negotiated solution and will do everything to support this. But there is no absolute clarity about what concrete steps will be taken in the near future to move in this direction.''
President Bush has said he wants a peaceful solution but has not ruled out military action.