updated 11/17/2005 8:43:31 PM ET 2005-11-18T01:43:31

Russia’s growing anger at Iran’s reluctance to compromise on its nuclear activities could help the United States and other nations seeking to refer Tehran to the U.N. Security Council, diplomats said Thursday.

Along with China, Russia is a key Iran ally and veto-wielding member of the Security Council that has opposed referring the Islamic state to the world body. But frustration in Moscow could swing the Russians closer to the U.S.-European position — and indirectly pressure Beijing to join the mainstream, one diplomat told The Associated Press.

Russia has been increasingly active in recent weeks in efforts to bridge differences between Tehran and the West only to face Iranian intransigence, said the diplomats, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Most recently, they said, Iranian officials told the Russians on Wednesday they would not resume uranium conversion — only to do so a few hours later.

So far, Russia has been influential in getting Iran back to negotiations on uranium enrichment. The Americans and Europeans recently agreed to abandon demands that Iran renounce enrichment and related activities and instead endorsed a plan allowing Iran to convert uranium but move the enrichment process to Russia.

Iran: Nuclear fuel is for electricity
In theory, that would deny Iran the capacity to produce weapons-grade uranium for nuclear weapons — something the Americans and their allies say Iran wants to do. Tehran insists it is interested in enrichment only to make nuclear fuel for electricity.

Gregory L. Schulte, the chief U.S. representative to the IAEA, alluded to recent comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel should be wiped off the map.

“A country that threatens ‘death’ to other countries must be denied the most deadly of weapons,” he said Thursday in a speech at Vienna’s Diplomatic Academy. He accused Tehran of “lying, covering up and withholding information on its nuclear activities.”

He said that even Russia, a key Iranian ally, believes Iran “is developing a nuclear weapons capability.”

When senior Iranian officials told Russian counterparts that they had decided not to resume conversion for “technical reasons,” the Russians interpreted that as a positive sign. It raised hopes of easing tensions two weeks before the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency meets in Vienna Nov. 24 to consider possible referral to the Security Council, which can impose sanctions.

Tehran’s reversal was not unexpected: Iran had said several weeks ago it would process a new batch of raw uranium into a precursor of the gas used to enrich uranium. But it was nonetheless a blow, eroding the Russian goodwill Tehran needs, the diplomats said.

Going against Russia’s wishes
The reversal also came soon after Russian Security Council head Igor Ivanov had briefed senior EU officials about Iran’s readiness to compromise, which further embarrassed and angered the Russians, said a European official speaking from outside Vienna.

A man who answered the phone at the Russian diplomatic mission in Vienna responsible for the IAEA said the head of the mission was not available for comment.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns was en route to London on Thursday for a meeting with British, French and German negotiators representing the European Union on Iran’s nuclear situation.

Also, Iran recently allowed U.N. nuclear inspectors to revisit the Parchin military site, about 20 miles southeast of Tehran, in an effort to blunt chances of Security Council referral.

Diplomats have told the AP that initial results of samples from the site showed no trace of radiation. But diplomats said Thursday that the nuclear agency found additional evidence that increase suspicions about Iran’s agenda.

They said a report by IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei to be presented at the upcoming board meeting will present new findings about “dual-use” equipment held by Iran — technology that can be used both for peaceful nuclear applications or in programs to make weapons.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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