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Medvedev: Lula May Be 'Last Chance' for Iran Before Sanctions

APPresidents Lula and Medvedev attending a joint news conference after their meeting in the Kremlin on Friday.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's visit to Iran is "the last chance" to persuade Tehran to cooperate on its nuclear program, President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday, estimating his counterpart's chances of success at 30 percent.

"Taking into account that my friend President Lula is an optimist, I'll be an optimist too and give [an estimate] — 30 percent," Medvedev told reporters at a news conference, according to a transcript on the Kremlin web site.

Lula met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday in an attempt to revive a stalled proposal, according to which Iran would send low-enriched uranium abroad in exchange for a higher-grade uranium necessary for nuclear reactors. But as of late Sunday, the leaders had not mentioned the nuclear agreement and had instead focused on mutual relations.

The UN-backed deal to swap uranium broke down in October after Iran insisted on conducting the swap only on its own territory.

Iran's refusal to curb its nuclear program means that there is little hope for an agreement on a swap deal, International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano told Bloomberg, adding that some countries were losing interest in the deal.

If Lula fails, the world powers' efforts to persuade Iran to take responsibility for its nuclear program should end, and sanctions against the country should be tightened, U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said last week.

“At that point we believe there should be consequences for a failure to respond,” Crowley said, Bloomberg reported.

Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama discussed "the good progress" being made by the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany toward an agreement on the Security Council's resolution on Iran in a telephone conversation Thursday, according to a statement on the White House's web site.

The two presidents "agreed to instruct their negotiators to intensify their efforts to reach conclusion as soon as possible," the statement said.

Medvedev said sanctions might have to be imposed on Iran if Ahmadinejad didn't agree on the swap deal. "I wouldn't like such a course of events, but I can't rule it out," he said.

A UN Security Council resolution passed in 2008 stipulated a travel ban for Iranian officials who take part in the nuclear program and froze the bank accounts of some Iranian companies and banks.

Later, the European Union imposed new sanctions on loans to Iranian banks. EU-member states were advised to avoid reaching a new trade agreement with Iran.

The United States and other Western countries claim that Iran is developing weapons with its nuclear program, while Iran says the program is peaceful. But Moscow, which has close trade ties with Iran, has been reluctant to support any new sanctions.

Diplomats of the six nations involved in the talks met in New York last week to discuss a draft resolution in an effort to overcome disagreements on some details, Reuters citied U.S. envoys as saying.

The envoys said Russia and China were opposing a number of measures against Iran proposed in the resolution, including the arms embargo and a ban on new investment in Iran's energy sector.

Diplomats are expecting a UN Security Council vote on the resolution as early as in June.

Medvedev said Friday that the world powers had a few disagreements on the Iranian uranium-enrichment program.

"There are not very many disagreements on the Iranian nuclear program at the moment. The common approaches are unchanged, and almost all nations follow them," he said.

Medvedev said there were four major conditions Iran had to fulfill on its nuclear program.

The country's uranium-enrichment program should be peaceful, easy to examine and able to be controlled by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, he said. In addition, Iran should cooperate with the world powers and the IAEA and fulfill the nuclear nonproliferation requirements, he said.

"When such approaches or conditions exist, we, naturally, are ready for Iran to take its well-earned place among countries doing research in the nuclear sphere," Medvedev said.

Separately, Medvedev and Lula signed a strategic partnership agreement that maps out the development of relations between the two countries and agreed to a cancellation of their visa regime.

The document calls for cooperation in oil field development, shipbuilding and railway transport, as well as space exploration and aircraft building.

Gazprom is in talks on helping develop the offshore Tupi oil field and the Jupiter gas-and-oil field in Brazil, Bloomberg reported. State energy trader Inter RAO also agreed to participate in a tender to build two hydroelectric dams in the country.

Trade between the countries increased fivefold between 2002 and 2008, but fell 40 percent in 2009 because of the economic crisis, Lula said.

"But the results reached in 2008 show that we can count on much in 2011 and 2012. We'll see a rebound in trade and economic ties in the upcoming years," he said.

Medvedev said he expected trade between Russia and Brazil to reach as much as $10 billion this year.

The leaders also reiterated their desire to increase the use of their respective currencies in bilateral trade, saying there was no reason for their dependence on a third currency.

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