Moscow, Jan 31 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Russia and other UN Security Council members have again urged Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment programme, after Tehran announced plans to install new centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear facility, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.
Tehran notified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) earlier this month that it plans to install more modern equipment at the Natanz site, which has previously enriched uranium to five percent purity.
That has caused concern because the new gas centrifuges might allow Iran to refine large amounts of uranium to higher levels of purity, which would be suitable for a nuclear bomb, rather than fuel for an atomic power plant or other peaceful uses.
"The IAEA has been notified, and the IAEA will be there and will supervise this, but I'd like to repeat that this is a legal aspect of the matter, while the political aspect is that we, along with the other Security Council members, have called on Iran to freeze enrichment operations during the negotiations," Lavrov said.
"But they are doing everything in line with their commitments under the Safeguards Agreement," he added.
The Safeguards Agreement between the IAEA and Iran was signed in 1974, and sets out safety measures covering Tehran's nuclear activity.
The Iranian move comes despite international sanctions aimed at slowing Tehran's nuclear programme and amid international efforts to launch a new round of talks between Iran and the "sextet" of international mediators, comprising Britain, China, France, Russia, the US and Germany.
The group, known as P5+1, held three rounds of talks over the Iranian nuclear issue last year, following a one-year break in the negotiations.
These talks, however, did not result in a breakthrough, as the sides cannot agree on the true nature of Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
The European External Action Service (EEAS) recently invited Iran to hold a new round of talks on its controversial nuclear programme in February.
The US, Israel and some of their allies accuse Iran of using its nuclear energy programme to build nuclear weapons.
Iran rejects these allegations, arguing as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and member of the IAEA, it is entitled to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Russia has repeatedly expressed concern over the slow pace of the nuclear talks with Iran, and stressed the need for the new meeting to be held as soon as possible.