NEW YORK: Iran is in talks with Russia to build a second nuclear plant in the Islamic Republic, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Friday.
“There are conversations now ongoing with the Russians to provide this,” he told reporters at a press conference, though characterizing the discussions as “very general.”
Iran, accused by Western nations of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon, is under four sets of UN sanctions for refusing for years to bow to international demands to rein in uranium enrichment.
Russia picked up the construction of Iran's first nuclear power plant from Germany in the 1990s and the unit was hooked up to the power grid system for the first time this month.
Ahead of his address to the annual UN General Assembly, Ahmadinejad said Iran would halt production of low-enriched uranium, which can be a stepping stone to produce atomic weapons, if the West gives it the material in return.
“If they give us the 20 per cent enriched uranium this very week, we will cease the domestic enrichment of uranium of up to 20 percent this very week. We only want the 20 per cent enrichment for our domestic consumption,” Ahmadinejad told The New York Times on Thursday.
His comments suggested the Iranian leader was seeking to revive a fuel swap deal brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency that floundered two years ago.
Under the UN nuclear watchdog's tentative pact, Iran's low-enriched uranium would have been exchanged for more refined fuel from abroad.
The European Union has also offered to resume without “pre-conditions” the sputtering talks with Iran over its suspect nuclear program. The talks broke down in January.
Russia 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 program had no military dimension - comments that marked a sharp detour from Russia's previous stance.
A new Kremlin proposal in the standoff 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.