Press Conference with Foreign Minister Lavrov on Meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Excerpts)

March 9, 2006

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Foreign Minister Lavrov:

I would like to share completely the evaluation by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of our talks that we had yesterday night at the dinner, and today in an extended composition, as very useful and important for the further development of our partnership. The list of themes of which Madame Rice said is truly very important. They directly concern acute problems that exist in the world. On how we are going to cooperate with our G8 partners, primarily the US, it largely depends whether we will be able to solve these problems by peaceful means for common benefit so as to avoid creating additional hotbeds.

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A question to Secretary Rice. Iran has reportedly told Russia that it is willing to suspend large-scale uranium enrichment while preserving some small-scale enrichment. Did Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ask for US support for such a compromise during your meetings? Could the U.S. accept any level of enrichment on Iranian soil at any time? And does this potential compromise represent a threat to the united international front that you hope to present at the Security Council? A question to Foreign Minister Lavrov. If the Iran case moves to the Security Council, is Russia prepared to support any form of economic sanction for Tehran at any time, either now or later in the Security Council review process?

Foreign Minister Lavrov:

I can reiterate what Madame Rice said. There is no new Russian compromise proposal. All our contacts with Iran, with the European trio, with the United States, China and others, including the IAEA Director General, were about finding a way to implement the February decision by the IAEA Board of Governors. It is only in that context that our well-known suggestion to have a joint venture to enrich uranium on Russian soil to provide for the fuel needs of Iran was made, and we have repeatedly stated that it's only in this context that this joint venture initiative is acceptable. This initiative is not a new one. It was welcomed by all participants of the process and there are no compromise proposals, nor could there be. We will be discussing the situation on the basis of the report of the IAEA. The Security Council will be able to acquaint itself with it, as we agreed in February.

As for the question you addressed to me, we are members of the Security Council, and quite in a position not to support any proposal at any time as you have formulated your question. We will have to consider each situation on its merits.

And on the issue of Iran, what's crucial is not who does what, and whether you elevate the level of discussion or keep it where it is. What's crucial is to make sure that the international community clarifies all questions about the past program of Iran, while at the same time preventing a violation of the nonproliferation regime. How to achieve this, I assume, will be decided in the next few days. In our view, any solution should take into account the very high desirability of continuing to investigate the old Iranian program so that all the questions the international community has can be answered by experts.

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