MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's nuclear chief on Friday said only full nuclear powers should create centers for enriching uranium, in a swipe at a Saudi proposal for Arab states to help supply Iran with enriched uranium.
U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states are ready to set up a body to provide enriched uranium to Iran in a bid to defuse Tehran's stand-off with the West over its nuclear plan, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister told a magazine this week.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries -- Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates -- have proposed creating a Middle East consortium for users of enriched uranium, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED).
When asked about the report, Russia's nuclear energy agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko said Russia had received no official information about the proposal, RIA news agency reported.
"In our opinion there should be many such centers but it is obvious that such centers must be in countries which have the full technology for enrichment (of uranium) so that this technology doesn't spread around the world," Kiriyenko said.
Prince Saud said Iran was considering the offer. He said the enrichment plant should be in a neutral country, such as Switzerland.
In late 2005 Russia offered to create a joint centre with Iran to enrich uranium on Russian territory, but Iran sent conflicting signals about its intentions. Later, Tehran said it would produce nuclear fuel inside Iran.
The Kremlin says that Iran should not be pushed into a corner and opposes tougher sanctions but senior officials say Russia has no interest in seeing Iran get nuclear weapons.
Russia, which says there is no evidence that Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb, fears that a U.S. invasion of Iran could provoke a wider conflict in the Middle East.