Daily Telegraph: Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov used a series of meetings with his Western counterparts, including David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, to signal that Moscow had gone cold on international efforts to reign in the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.
The Daily Telegraph
Western diplomats met in New York last night to thrash out a further set of bilateral sanctions against Iran after Russian and China launched a boycott of talks on a new UN resolution.
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov used a series of meetings with his Western counterparts, including David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, to signal that Moscow had gone cold on international efforts to reign in the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.
Mr Lavrov lashed out at America and its allies as he linked the Russian decision to steps taken to punish its invasion of Georgia by cutting Kremlin officials out of G8 talks. "You can't have it both ways, punishing Russia by canceling meetings we share and at the same time expecting Russian cooperation on issues important to you," he said. "It is not right to make important items on our agenda hostage."
Foreign Office officials struggled to play down the implications of Russia's fresh recalcitrance but one official said it had doomed attempts to impose new penalties on Iran, which has a clandestine nuclear programme, until the first half of 2009. "There's a recognition that the next step will be down to individual countries," said one official close to the discussions. "It will take some time, well beyond the US elections, to engage in discussions that will produce any more UN sanctions.
"But there are certainly more measures that Europe and America can take to target Iranian activities and we want to be ready to take that opportunity."
Political directors of the four Western powers were ready to brief their Russian and Chinese equivalents of specific measures that would be taken to restrict Iranian banks and individuals associated with the Islamic regime's nuclear ambitions.
Mr Lavrov announced his withdrawal from a scheduled meeting with British, French, German plus American and Chinese foreign ministers, the main contact group on Iran during contentious meeting with Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State. China quickly followed suit.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a "decidedly bleak." report on Iran's nuclear programme earlier this month. It said that Iran had sabotaged the inspection programme by denying access to sites and documents related to its nuclear activities. Iranian officials responded by provoking a row over the authenticity of US-provided intelligence, a move condemned by Washington as irrelevant bluster.
The Security Council has imposed three rounds of watered down sanctions to force Iran to suspend a uranium enrichment programme that could yield bomb grade material. Instead Tehran expanded its centrifuge cascades, which refine uranium, to more than 4,000 machines.
A reduction of Russian pressure on North Korea is also in prospect. That would bolster Pyongyang's fresh efforts to wring concessions from Washington by restarting the mothballed Yongbyon plutonium reactor. The Stalinist dictatorship expelled UN inspectors from the site on Wednesday. It has declared it will start to reactivate the plant next week but the process would take a year or more to complete.