Last updated: 19 September, 2011

Iran security chief holds nuclear talks in Russia

Iran’s top national security official arrived in Moscow Monday to discuss with Russia Tehran’s nuclear standoff with the West and the two sides’ row over an abandoned arms contract.

Saeed Jalili was to hold private talks with Russian officials at the Islamic state’s embassy in Moscow before joining a global security forum in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg later in the week.

Jalili began his visit at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) where he told a student audience that he wanted Moscow and Tehran to bridge their differences in the face of “unilateral policies” being pursued by Washington.

“Even though Moscow and Tehran disagree on certain issues, they have mutual interests, particularly those in energy,” Jalili said.

Iran has been furious with Russia for its decision last year to abandon the agreed sale of S-300 missiles that fell under a sanctions regime imposed by the UN Security Council.

Jalili highlighted the launch this month of the Bushehr nuclear power plant that Russia built for Iran despite criticism from the United States as an example of future conduct for the two traditional allies.

“Iran and Russia … can turn into the nucleus around which relations on the international arena are built,” he said.

Russia had nurtured its ties with Iran through military and other sales in the past decade before becoming far more critical of its nuclear drive in recent months.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said on several recent occasions that it was up to Iran to prove that its programme had no military dimension — comments that marked a sharp detour from Russia’s previous stance.

Jalili’s arrival came one month after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks in Moscow with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi at which he fleshed out details of a new Kremlin proposal in the standoff.

The plan states that Iran should be rewarded with the step-by-step removal of the UN sanctions each time it builds trust with the global body’s nuclear agency by agreeing to inspections and making other compromises.

Lavrov said at the time that Russia’s plan had been “completely accepted” by the five other world powers involved in attempts to find a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear drive.

The Iranian foreign minister promised to study the idea and called it “promising”.

But the Iranian ambassador to Moscow told Iran’s ISNA news agency on Sunday that it may take some time for Tehran to formulate an official response.

“Iran needs a great amount of time to present its viewpoints on the proposal so that the two sides can secure a proper result,” ambassador Seyyed Mahmoud Reza Sajjadi said.