Friday, March 24, 2006

US Presses Russia to Back UN Action Against Iran

The United States pressed Russia on Friday to join the West in rebuking Iran at the United Nations as part of a U.S.-led campaign to curb the Islamic republic's nuclear programs. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called her Russian counterpart after the countries' lower-level diplomats failed in days of haggling to agree on language for a U.N. Security Council statement against Iran.

Russia has put up the toughest resistance among major powers to the U.S. push for the United Nations to tell Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activity that could produce fuel for an atomic bomb.

Iran says its programs are to generate electricity.

Rice said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed in the call that the sides' negotiators could work through the weekend to try to break the impasse. READ MORE

"I think that everybody just needs to get to work and let's get this done so that the Iranians have a very clear message about what's going on," Rice told reporters when asked if she believed Russia was stalling.

Her pressure on Russia followed a round of calls on Thursday among the council members' foreign ministers seeking to produce a unified message to Iran.

The five countries that hold vetoes at the council -- United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- are all established nuclear powers.

Britain and France support the United States, while China has limited its opposition.

Next week, Rice also plans to visit Germany, France and Britain, where she will hammer out a strategy that she hopes can be widely supported to stop Iran's suspected pursuit of the atomic bomb.

The slow progress at the United Nations this month comes after the United States tried for years to get the council to take up the issue of confronting Iran over its nuclear programs.