Iran Nuclear NewsRussia reassures Europeans on Iran's nuclear aims

Russia reassures Europeans on Iran’s nuclear aims

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Reuters: Russia has told European envoys it is committed to ensuring Iran does not make nuclear bombs, even though Moscow gutted a draft U.N. resolution on sanctions against Tehran, diplomats said on Wednesday. By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia has told European envoys it is committed to ensuring Iran does not make nuclear bombs, even though Moscow gutted a draft U.N. resolution on sanctions against Tehran, diplomats said on Wednesday.

The envoys, close to negotiations on the Security Council draft resolution, said some of the numerous changes Russia has proposed in the text could be for bargaining purposes, as a trade-off for concessions on a nuclear power plant it is constructing for Iran at the Gulf port of Bushehr.

The Russian amendments, obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, would cross out about half of the 24 paragraphs in the European draft which is generally backed by the United States. The extensive changes put forward by Moscow diminished prospects for a quick agreement.

The sanctions seek to punish Iran for refusing to suspend all nuclear enrichment, as demanded by an Aug. 31 Security Council resolution. Washington believes enrichment is a cover for bomb-making while Tehran says it is for generating electricity.

The European draft resolution exempts from sanctions the construction of Bushehr but not the delivery of nuclear fuel to the plant. The $800 million facility is expected to go into operation next year.

Russia’s draft crossed out all mention of Bushehr. Its U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, argued the plant was legal and did not contribute to nuclear proliferation.

“They appear to want to move slowly and ratchet up pressure later if Iran doesn’t comply,” said one envoy, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the negotiations. “And they want Bushehr out of the resolution.”

Still, the diplomat, said Russia was seeking to reassure its negotiating partners it wanted to prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon.

MORE TALKS DUE THIS WEEK

Talks were due to resume later this week among the five Security Council members with veto power — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — and Germany.

The European draft — drawn up by Britain, France and Germany — demands nations prevent the sale or supply of any equipment, technology or financing that would contribute to Iran’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs.

Russia says this provision should focus only on “enrichment-related and reprocessing activities,” heavy-water reactors and the development of “nuclear weapon delivery systems.” Russia also wants sanctions to be left to national governments rather than imposed by the Security Council on all nations.

The European draft says Tehran should suspend a heavy water research reactor at Arak that Iran wants to complete by 2009. The reactor can produce plutonium that could be used in making nuclear weapons, but the Russian text asks Iran only “to reconsider its construction.”

The European draft also bans travel and freezes the assets of people and entities involved in the nuclear and ballistic missile programs, a provision that Russia wants stricken from the text.

China’s U.N. envoy Wang Guangya, whose country supports Russia on Iran, was pessimistic about the progress in the negotiations. Other ambassadors were more upbeat.

“Clearly I think in a number of difficult areas the difference cannot be bridged so I believe there should be more reflections in capitals,” he told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting.

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