debkafile Exclusive: Putin and Merkel talk compromise on Iranian nuclear issue while EU talks tough, calling for emergency UN watchdog session Feb.

debkafile‘s Moscow sources report the Iranian nuclear issue loomed large in the visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday. Our Russian and Iranian sources report Merkel, who arrived at the Kremlin Monday, Jan. 16, directly from talks with President George W. Bush at the White House, is on a mediation mission to line up the US, Iran and the European Union behind the Russian initiative for Iranian uranium enrichment to take place in Russia.
Moscow’s first proposal last year was for Iran to be co-opted to an international commission for determining the amounts of uranium to be enriched and the facility’s management and set the budget. But Tehran would not be involved in the process or have a say in the enriched product. This would be a safeguard against the manufacture of weapons-grade material.
Moscow’s proposal was turned down then by Iran. But since the German chancellor entered the picture, Tehran is thinking again.
Monday, Jan. 16, the Iranian ambassador to Russia, Gholamreza Ansari, said his country is carefully examining Russia’s suggestion to establish a uranium enrichment joint venture on Russian territory. “We consider it constructive… a good initiative to sort out the situation,” he said to Russia’s Channel One.
It was not by chance that the Putin-Merkel summit coincided with the five UN Security Council permanent members’ crisis meeting in London. Germany was invited to the closed-door talks. They ended with the three EU powers, the UK, France and Germany, calling for an emergency UN watchdog session in Vienna on Feb-2-3, a step on the road to referral to the UN Security Council for sanctions.
Clearly, the Western powers were turning up the heat under Iran to moderate its conditions for a compromise solution.
Tehran’s apparent softening on the Russian solution Monday confirms DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Exclusive of last Friday, Jan. 13:
A case in point this week was Tehran’s unexpected waiver of its objections to temporarily relocating its uranium enrichment processing to Russia, with the reservation that this could happen only after Iran achieves full independent capacity.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Tehran, the Iranians are genuinely concerned to explore the Russian option, to find out if they can learn enough from the Russians to improve their enrichment techniques. A project in Russia would not prevent them from continuing their enrichment operations – openly in Natnaz and covertly at the closed military compound at Parchin and other sites scattered around the country. It will therefore not be surprising if Tehran comes out with an offer to seriously discuss this project with Moscow.

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