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Russia Nudges Iran to 'Modify' Suspect Reactor

Workers at Iran's Arak heavy-water reactor facility pose for a picture in 2006. Workers at Iran's Arak heavy-water reactor facility pose for a picture in 2006. (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

A senior Russian envoy publicly urged Iran to modify a heavy-water reactor now ready to produce plutonium when it begins operating, Interfax reports.

The Arak complex was one focus of this week's two-day meeting on a possible long-term nuclear deal between Iran and six other countries: China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Washington has pressed for a potential agreement to include alterations to the Arak site that would eliminate fears about its ability to produce plutonium for potential use in bombs. Tehran insists the site would serve strictly peaceful ends, and it has expressed differing levels of openness to modifications.

"We think that our Iranian friends and partners should demonstrate their goodwill, take international concerns into consideration and find a way to modify, reconfigure the Arak facility," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in comments reported on Thursday.

Doing so, he said, would "lift concerns about its possible use in [an] arms program," Ryabkov said on Wednesday, as he warned that tensions in Eastern Europe could threaten international cooperation in the talks.

The Russian diplomat said he expected negotiators to gain traction on the Arak dispute at their next high-level meeting, which is scheduled to begin on April 7 in Vienna.

Iran has abided by a six-month commitment to suspend key operations at the heavy-water complex, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report on Thursday. The U.N. nuclear watchdog added that Tehran has provided new details about the site in a "Design Information Questionnaire."

However, the agency noted further delays in Iran's work on a planned facility at Isfahan for converting its most bomb-suitable gaseous uranium into solid oxide, Reuters reported.

An envoy in Vienna said "Iran seems to be fulfilling all its requirements under the agreement, [but] this is a dynamic process and it will be kept under close review each month."

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