He is also due to meet Ali Larijani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, in the Austrian capital on Tuesday for their first encounter this year.

 

"Iran feels insecure. They live in a neighbourhood which is not the most friendly"

Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA chief

The announcement of the meeting in Vienna and the Russian warning on construction delay come before the expiry of the February 21 deadline set down by the UN Security Council for Iran to halt its nuclear work.


Tehran has refused to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that some Western countries fear could be used to make nuclear weapons rather than atomic fuel.

 

Instead, Larijani and other Iranian officials have suggested that Iran places a formal limit on the degree of its enrichment as a guarantee that it is not seeking an atomic bomb.

 

Security priority

 

ElBaradei told Western powers on Monday that they need to reassure Iran over its security rather than just ratchet up sanctions if they want to resolve a nuclear standoff.

 

ElBaradei said: "You need to reach out to the country and bring them to engagement. You need to get that process going."

 

Larijani has suggested a limit on the degree of
nuclear enrichment [AP]

He said he expected the West to tighten sanctions imposed by the Security Council in December.

 

"We will probably go even further with sanctions if Iran will not comply [but] the nuclear issue is really the tip of the iceberg." 

 

"Iran feels insecure. They live in a neighbourhood which is not the most friendly," he said, pointing out that Pakistan and Russia both have nuclear weapons.

 

"There are grievances between Iran and the West. You have got to address the security issue."

 

Unilateral measures

The deadline for Iran to suspend enrichment came in the same UN resolution that imposed targeted sanctions against Iran's nuclear industry and ballistic missile sectors.

 

The US has threatened to impose unilateral measures of its own if Tehran does not comply.

 

Meanwhile, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards launched three days of countrywide war games on Monday, aimed at readying the defensive capabilities of the armed forces.