AP: Russia signaled opposition Thursday to a European-proposed U.N. draft resolution to impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, and Tehran’s state-run radio warned Europe an impasse was looming. Associated Press
By NASSER KARIMI
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Russia signaled opposition Thursday to a European-proposed U.N. draft resolution to impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, and Tehran’s state-run radio warned Europe an impasse was looming.
Hours before the Security Council’s five permanent members, plus Germany, were to meet for the first time to discuss the European draft, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested passage of the measure would require a fight.
He said the resolution, which imposes limited sanctions on Iran because of its refusal to cease uranium enrichment, was a departure from existing agreements between major powers.
The six major powers of United States, Russia, Germany, France, Britain and China have offered Iran incentives to halt uranium enrichment, but Tehran has rejected them. Enrichment can produce material for nuclear power reactors or weapons.
Russia and China – veto-wielding Security Council members with strong commercial ties to Tehran – have agreed in principle to sanctions, but refused to close the door on the possibility of last-minute talks with Iran aimed at re-establishing cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, a U.N. watchdog.
“Our goal is to eliminate the risks of sensitive technologies getting into the hands of Iran until the IAEA clarifies issues of interest to it, while maintaining all possible channels of communication with Iran,” Lavrov said on state television.
“And it seems to me that, in this context, the draft resolution clearly does not correspond to those tasks agreed on by the six sides,” he said.
Meanwhile, a commentary on Iran’s state-run radio, which often reflects the government’s perspective, warned Europe that an impasse was brewing. The Iranian radio commentary said Russia wanted to give the EU more time to entice Iran into cooperating with the IAEA.
“If Russia opposes the resolution, then Europe’s stance in further negotiation with Iran would be in a worse situation,” the commentary said.
The Iranian radio commentary also accused the U.S. of impeding the EU-Iran talks.
European nations this week proposed sanctions – banning the sale of missile and atomic technology to Iran and ending most U.N. help for its nuclear programs – after weeks of exploratory talks with a European Union negotiator ended without progress.
The EU had proposed that Iran at least temporarily freeze enrichment as a condition for multilateral talks aimed at erasing suspicions it may be trying to build nuclear arms in violation of its treaty commitments.
Tehran refused, saying its uranium enrichment program aims only to generate electricity. The United States and others suspect it is a cover for building atomic weapons.
Thursday also brought a sign of cooperation between the European sponsors of the current draft resolution and China, thought to have a similar stance on sanctions as Russia.
French President Jacques Chirac and Chinese President Hu Jintao issued a joint statement Thursday pledging to “keep in close and regular contact and work to find a peaceful solution of the Iran nuclear issue,” though they didn’t mention any new initiatives.
The U.S. indicated Wednesday that it saw the European draft as too weak but stopped short of discarding it.
A key concern for Moscow is the future of its $1 billion contract to build Iran’s first nuclear power station in the southwestern Iranian city of Bushehr.
Sanctions, as laid out in the European draft resolution, would impose certain limits on the Bushehr project but would not force an end to it. Russia has steadfastly rejected U.S. demands to halt work at the site, which is due to go online in September.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Bushehr would not be an obstacle.
“We believe this is something we can work with,” he said Thursday without providing any details. “We don’t think it is going to be an obstacle.”
McCormack said he expected discussions among the permanent members of the Council would go on for several days and then other governments would join in and consult with their capitals.
“We know Russia has concerns about putting too much pressure on Iran,” he added.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei echoed McCormack’s comments.
“We have taken note of the Russian declarations. … We will now pursue discussions in New York,” he said in Paris.
Associated Press Writer Henry Meyer in Moscow contributed to this report.