Kremlin official: "No proof" Iran is seeking nuclear weapons
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday challenged US claims of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, saying the Kremlin had "no information" Tehran was developing an atomic device.
"We have no proof whatsoever that Iran has taken the political decision to produce an atomic bomb," Lavrov said in an interview with the Bloomberg news agency.
"And nothing in the information which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has available to it supports a conclusion, that Iran is producing such a bomb," he said, DPA reported.
Lavrov called on Iran to cooperate fully with IAEA inspectors and further to provide voluntarily to the inspectors additional access to its nuclear power programme.
"Iran has rather important responsibilities connected with the necessity of proving the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme, and there is a whole series of questions the international community would like to clarify," he said.
Russia's top diplomat said negotiations with Tehran on widening international inspections were moving forward and "light at the end of the tunnel is visible."
He criticised the international community and particularly the US for imposing new sanctions on Iran as that will, Lavrov said, make extremely difficult a fully independent evaluation of the purposes of Iran's nuclear programme.
"Any new sanctions would not have anything to do with our basic goal (of evaluating Iran's nuclear programme) and would in fact simply be intended to harm Iran," he said. "This would be counterproductive."
The Kremlin has long tried to position itself between western nations led by the US, who claim Iran is developing nuclear weapons, and the Iranian government which has long maintained it is only developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
Russian companies since the mid-1990s have worked as the main contractor for Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant. Russian firms likewise are providing the fuel for the station which could come online in coming months, according to news reports.