New York Times: Russias defense minister said Friday that it was premature to consider punitive actions against Iran despite its refusal so far to suspend its efforts to enrich uranium as the United Nations Security Council has demanded. The New York Times
By STEVEN LEE MYERS
Published: August 26, 2006
MOSCOW, Aug. 25 Russias defense minister said Friday that it was premature to consider punitive actions against Iran despite its refusal so far to suspend its efforts to enrich uranium as the United Nations Security Council has demanded.
Although Russia agreed to the Security Councils resolution on July 31, Defense Minister Sergei B. Ivanovs remarks made it clear that Russia would not support taking the next step that the United States and Britain have called for: imposing sanctions against Iran or its leaders over its nuclear programs. The Council set Aug. 31 as the deadline for Iran to respond to its demand.
Russia has repeatedly expressed opposition to punitive steps, even as President Vladimir V. Putin and others have called on Iran to cooperate with international inspectors and suspend its enrichment activity.
But on Friday Mr. Ivanov went further, saying the issue was not so urgent that the Security Council should consider sanctions and expressing doubt that they would work in any case.
I know of no cases in international practice or the whole of previous experience when sanctions achieved their goals or were efficient, Mr. Ivanov, a close ally of Mr. Putin who also serves as deputy prime minister, said in televised remarks in the Far East.
Russias opposition left in doubt the Bush administrations delicate diplomacy to increase pressure on Iran over its nuclear energy programs, which American officials fear disguise an effort to build nuclear weapons.
Echoing a statement by the Foreign Ministry after Iran responded in writing this week to an offer of incentives from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, Mr. Ivanov said that Russia would continue to advocate a political and diplomatic solution to the problem.
But neither he nor other officials have said what Russia will do if Iran refuses to meet the Security Councils demands to suspend its nuclear programs by the deadline.
On Wednesday a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Mikhail L. Kamynin, said that it was important to grasp nuances in Irans lengthy written response and that Russia would continue to use its influence with the Iranians.
Russia has significant economic ties with Iran and is building a nuclear reactor at Bushehr, an Iranian city on the Persian Gulf. Underscoring Russias cooperation in the field, an Iranian delegation has been visiting this week to discuss further joint projects, which officials from both countries have emphasized are purely civilian in nature.
But Russias opposition to sanctions appears to extend beyond purely commercial interests. Officials have indicated that they fear that sanctions would lead to a new American-led military conflict in the region, as happened in Iraq.
Voicing a similar fear, the French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, said in Paris that Irans response was not satisfactory but warned that it would be worse to lend fire to a confrontation between Iran on one side the Muslim world with Iran and the West.