- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 10, 2012

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia expressed regret and concern Tuesday about Iran’s launch of an underground uranium enrichment facility, but urged all parties involved in the nuclear standoff with Tehran to avoid hasty moves.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the launch of the facility near Iran’s holy city of Qom demonstrated that Tehran was continuing to ignore international concerns about its nuclear program. It added, however, that Iran had notified the International Atomic Energy Agency in due time of the launch of the bunker facility.

“We hope that Tehran will listen to our opinion about the need for a further close cooperation with the agency and a quick start of serious six-way talks on the Iranian nuclear program without any preconditions,” it said.

The ministry said Russia was urging all parties involved in the Iranian nuclear standoff to avoid “ill-considered and abrupt moves,” which could undermine prospects for talks with Iran, an important trading partner.

“We confirm that all problems linked with the Iranian nuclear program must be solved exclusively through talks and dialogue based on mutual respect, gradual movement and reciprocity,” it said.

Russia had treaded a similar path over recent years, alternating criticism of Iran’s intransigence with praise for some of its moves and readiness to continue the dialogue. Iran has insisted that its uranium enrichment program is aimed at civilian power generation, but Western nations suspect it of serving as a cover for a nuclear weapons bid.

Moscow backed some of the previous U.N. sanctions against Iran, but in recent months has firmly rejected imposing any new sanctions and called for dialogue.

Russia built Iran’s first nuclear power plant in the southern port of Bushehr, which began producing electricity in September. Russia’s nuclear chief said last November that Iran would like more Russian-built reactors.