Bloomberg: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice agreed with Russia during a meeting in Hanoi last month that the United Nations should limit sanctions on Iran to blocking access to nuclear weapons-related materials, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. By Janine Zacharia
Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice agreed with Russia during a meeting in Hanoi last month that the United Nations should limit sanctions on Iran to blocking access to nuclear weapons-related materials, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Lavrov, in an interview today on the sidelines of a democracy conference at the Dead Sea in Jordan, said an initial European proposal to bar Iran from obtaining materials with potential military uses, prohibit travel by its officials and limit study-abroad programs for students was too sweeping and too punitive.
“The Europeans want to make very broad sanctions, which feels not like inducing Iran to cooperate but rather like” the measures are “intended to punish Iran,” Lavrov said.
Winning Russian support is crucial to advancing the diplomatic offensive against the Iranian government, which has ignored UN demands that it stop enriching uranium and open its nuclear program to more scrutiny.
There were signs yesterday that Lavrov’s objections had already been taken into account and that that the U.S. was now willing to negotiate on the basis of more narrow limits. A European diplomat said Britain, France and Germany have scaled back proposed sanctions to gain Russian support.
Lavrov said Russia objected to a version of the draft resolution that he said included a ban on trade in all materials listed by the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime, forums for governments whose goal is nonproliferation.
“Many of the items on those lists have nothing to do with nuclear technologies,” Lavrov said. Banning them comprehensively would create an “unwanted precedent,” he said.
Talks on a UN Security Council resolution aimed at persuading Iran to abandon its nuclear activities have been deadlocked for months.
The U.S. suspects that the Iranian drive to produce enriched uranium is a precursor to building a bomb, in contravention of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory. Iran, which has major natural gas reserves and is the second-biggest oil producer in the Middle East, says the fuel is needed to generate electricity.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister for economic affairs, Alireza Attar, told a conference in Istanbul last week that his country has plans to build 20 nuclear reactors to keep up with rising energy consumption.
Rice, speaking yesterday to reporters who accompanied her to Jordan, suggested the U.S. might be prepared to bring a resolution to a vote at the UN even if there was a prospect it wouldn’t be unanimously approved.
“We have to do something,” Rice said. “And I’m all for maintaining unity, but I’m also in favor of action. And we’ll just have to look at what the options are.”
Rice hinted there had been a breakthrough with Russia. “We had very good discussions with the Russians when we were in Hanoi,” Rice said, referring to a meeting she had with Lavrov during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the Vietnamese capital last month. “And I hope that that’s soon going to be reflected in what happens at the Security Council.”
Lavrov said today that the “good discussions” Rice described resulted in her endorsing the idea of a smaller basket of sanctions, specifically those recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Those are limited to items related to uranium enrichment, chemical reprocessing, heavy- water reactor construction and missile technologies, he said.
“If we stick to the original logic of supporting strongly the IAEA, then I think we can manage easily” to get a resolution. “And that’s what Condi agreed when we talked in Hanoi, on this logic of concentrating sanctions on areas of concern to the IAEA.”
Rice’s spokesman, Sean McCormack, who was en route back to Washington aboard her plane, was unreachable for comment.
A revised draft resolution, given this week to the U.S., China and Russia, bans only items that might be used to build a nuclear weapon, the European diplomat said on condition of not being identified, echoing what Lavrov said he favored today.
The new draft removes a proposed ban on fuel for the Bushehr power plant that Russia is helping Iran to build. It also extends to 60 days from 30 days the period before the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency would report to the Security Council on Iran’s compliance with a required suspension of uranium enrichment activities, the diplomat said.
British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry told reporters at the UN today that he didn’t expect envoys in New York to resume talks on Iran for “at least 10 days.” Jones Parry said the draft resolution was a “work in progress” that has to “ripen” before being taken up by the Security Council.