Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Russia Criticizes Iran Enrichment

The Washington Post:
Russia's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday criticized Iran after its president said Tehran had successfully enriched uranium for the first time, Russian news agencies reported. "We believe that this step is wrong. It runs counter to decisions of the IAEA (the U.N. nuclear watchdog) and resolutions of the U.N. Security Council," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin was quoted as saying by ITAR-Tass.

A second Foreign Ministry spokesman, Andrei Krivtsov, echoed the criticism, but said Russia was still hopeful that a visit to Iran by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Wednesday could help resolve the standoff. READ MORE

"We hope that Iran will use the visit ... to agree on specific moves to resolve the situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program," RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.

The timing of the Iranian announcement on the eve of ElBaradei's visit suggested Iran wanted to present him with a fait accompli and argue that it cannot be expected to entirely give up a program showing progress.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement was certain to heighten international tensions surrounding Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran maintains is a peaceful energy program. The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran stop all enrichment by April 28 because of suspicions the program is designed to make nuclear weapons.

Uranium enrichment can produce either fuel for a nuclear energy reactor _ as Iran says it seeks _ or the material needed for an atomic warhead.

The United States and the European Union are pressing for the United Nations to impose sanctions on Iran. However, Tehran's close commercial partners Russia and China _ both veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council _ have opposed such a step.

The White House said Tuesday that Ahmadinejad's enrichment claims "show that Iran is moving in the wrong direction."

"Defiant statements and actions only further isolate the regime from the rest of the world," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

In Vienna, Austria, IAEA officials declined to comment on Ahmadinejad's announcement. But a diplomat familiar with Tehran's enrichment program said it appeared to be accurate. He demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss information restricted to the agency.

A Russian analyst with close ties to the Kremlin said Wednesday the United States had only itself to blame for the worsening crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions by failing to work constructively with the international community in recent years.

"The U.S has made a series of bad mistakes, including its argument with Russia over the post-Soviet space, with Europe over Iraq and with China," Interfax quoted
Sergei Markov as saying.