Saturday, February 19, 2005

Rice: Russia Should Be Wary of Iran on Nuclear Claims

Dow Jones Newswires:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Friday urged Russia to be wary of Iran 's motives on its nuclear program but stopped short of criticizing Moscow for its cooperation with Tehran.

President George W. Bush is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin next week, and Rice purposely sought to avoid any criticism of Russia. Word from Moscow Friday that Russia will continue working with Iran to help build a nuclear reactor drew a limited response.

"There are good reasons to be suspicious of what the Iranians are doing," Rice said at a news conference.

She did not criticize Russia for its plans to continue cooperating with Tehran. Rice reminded Russia that it had called for safeguards at the Bushehr reactor.

Questioned about Russia arming Syria, Rice said, "We are not trying to isolate Syria. What we are trying to do is to get Syria to engage in more responsible behavior."

But while Rice offered carefully calibrated statements, two senators, one Republican and one Democratic, introduced a non-binding resolution urging Bush to suspend Russia membership in the Group of Eight industrialized democracies.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., cited Russia's record on human rights, press freedom and the political process. Although a non-binding resolution lacks the force of law, it could prove to be an embarrassment for Bush on his upcoming trip.