Iran Nuclear NewsNegotiations on Iran sanctions delayed

Negotiations on Iran sanctions delayed

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AP: Negotiations on an Iran sanctions resolution were unexpectedly postponed Tuesday because of Russia’s anger at the United States for raising the plight of an opposition leader in Belarus in the U.N. Security Council. Associated Press

By EDITH M. LEDERER

Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Negotiations on an Iran sanctions resolution were unexpectedly postponed Tuesday because of Russia’s anger at the United States for raising the plight of an opposition leader in Belarus in the U.N. Security Council.

Belarus, an authoritarian former communist state that has close ties to Russia, is not on the agenda of the U.N.’s most powerful body. Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin strongly objected when senior U.S. diplomat William Brencick brought up the 54-day hunger strike of jailed former Belarusian opposition presidential candidate, Alexander Kozulin, council diplomats said.

The five veto-wielding council members – the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France – along with Germany had been scheduled to meet soon after to discuss Russian amendments to a revised European draft resolution on Iran. But because of the diplomatic tiff over Belarus, the meeting was put off.

“It wasn’t the best timing by the U.S.,” said Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry.

Churkin, asked why the meeting was postponed, said: “Because I said so.”

The Europeans circulated a revised text on Friday in a bid to win backing from Russia and China, and Churkin said after talks Monday he was pleased with the direction of the negotiations though specific points still needed to be worked out.

A U.S. official said Washington felt it was important to raise the issue of Kozulin in the Security Council because of U.S. concerns for freedom of political expression and democracy, especially in the heart of Europe.

“We raised this issue and our goal was to highlight the plight of this individual and what it means for the state of democracy in this country,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the council meeting was closed.

Kozulin, who ended his hunger strike on Tuesday, has been jailed since March when he led a protest march following presidential elections in which he was one of three candidates challenging authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Kozulin had been on hunger strike to protest his sentencing in June to five and a half years in prison for organizing the unsanctioned protest.

Lukashenko has ruled Belarus since 1994, quashing dissent and maintaining power through elections that have been dismissed by critics abroad and at home as illegitimate.

The new draft resolution specifies in greater detail exactly what materials and technology would be prohibited from being supplied to Iran for possible use in its nuclear and missile programs. The Russians and Chinese had previously complained that proposed sanctions were too broad.

The draft also removes reference to a nuclear facility being built by the Russians at Bushehr, Iran – another demand by Russia. The facility, expected to go on line in late 2007, would be Iran’s first atomic power plant.

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