Iran Nuclear NewsUS keeps frustration at Russia in check as Iran...

US keeps frustration at Russia in check as Iran sanctions loom

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AFP: The United States revealed its frustration Friday at Russia’s “cynical policy” toward Kosovo but kept it in check with new sanctions against Iran looming, sanctions for which it needs Russian support. WASHINGTON, Feb 22, 2008 (AFP) — The United States revealed its frustration Friday at Russia’s “cynical policy” toward Kosovo but kept it in check with new sanctions against Iran looming, sanctions for which it needs Russian support.

“I think the Russians have pursued a fairly cynical policy,” Nicholas Burns, the assistant secretary of state for political affairs, referring to the crisis involving its ally Serbia over Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

Serb rioters enraged by US and other Western support for Kosovo’s independence set ablaze the US embassy in Belgrade on Thursday, prompting angry US and UN protests, although Russia argued the violence was understandable.

“They’re not in Kosovo, they’re not doing anything to help the Kosovars. So they’re kind of on the sidelines contributing mostly unhelpfully,” Burns told Fox News television when asked if Russia was stirring up trouble.

His response was more muted than that of Richard Holbrooke, a former high-ranking US diplomat who brokered the Dayton Accords ending the war in neighboring Bosnia in the 1990s.

“The fact that (declaring independence has) not happened as peacefully as people had hoped is the direct result of the incitement to violence by extremist elements in Belgrade, implicitly and privately supported by the Russians,” Holbrooke told CNN television.

When asked if he could match Holbrooke’s point, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack was cautious.

“No, I don’t at this point. I guess that is the luxury of being a pundit or being on the outside, you can make these associations without necessarily having them being backed by the facts,” McCormack told reporters.

“I don’t have anything to substantiate this point,” he added.

“That’s the difference between saying that the Russians are pursuing a cynical policy vis-a-vis Kosovo and saying that they are behind the final actions of some protesters,” McCormack said.

“There is a big difference there. Would we have wished that the Russians could play a more helpful and constructive role? Absolutely,” he said.

“We would hope that they look forward, not backward with respect with what has happened. We’ll see. We will continue working with them on a whole variety of other issues,” McCormack said.

The United States has been involved in lengthy negotiations with France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China to impose a third round of UN sanctions against Iran for its refusal to stop sensitive nuclear work.

Both Russia and China — veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council which have strong economic ties with Iran — have been more reluctant than the Europeans to back sanctions.

But Key European powers on Thursday formally introduced an amended package of new sanctions in the UN Security Council to pressure Iran into halting uranium enrichment activity and hoped for a vote next week.

The core elements of the draft were approved by foreign ministers of the five veto-wielding council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany at a meeting last month.

The draft includes an outright travel ban by officials involved in Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs and inspections of shipments to and from Iran if there are suspicions of prohibited goods.

The United States also needs Russia’s support as part of negotiations — which also involve China, Japan, North Korea and South Korea — aimed at scrapping North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

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