Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Russia Still Opposed to Sanctions on Iran

Vladimir Isachenkov, The Guardian:
Russia maintained its opposition to sanctions against Iran Tuesday, while President Bush said ``all options are on the table'' ahead of a meeting in Moscow to discuss Tehran's disputed nuclear program.

The United States and Britain say that if Iran does not comply with the U.N. Security Council's April 28 deadline to stop uranium enrichment, they will seek a resolution that would make the demand compulsory.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remained defiant, warning that Iran will ``cut off the hand of any aggressor'' that threatens it and insisting that its military has to be equipped with the most modern technology.

``Iran's enemies know your courage, faith and commitment to Islam and the land of Iran has created a powerful army that can powerfully defend the political borders,'' he told a parade commemorating Iran's Army Day on Tuesday.

Iran has refused to give up uranium enrichment, which the United States and some of its allies suspect is meant to produce weapons. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Senior diplomats from the five permanent Security Council members that wield veto power - Russia, the United States, France, Britain and China - plus Germany planned to meet over dinner Tuesday in Moscow to discuss the latest moves in the standoff.

Discussions were expected to continue Wednesday during a meeting of envoys from the Group of Eight major industrialized nations.

Bush refused to rule out any options but said he will continue to focus on the international diplomatic option to persuade Tehran to drop its nuclear ambitions.

``We want to solve this issue diplomatically and we're working hard to do so,'' Bush told reporters in the Rose Garden.

He also said there should be a unified effort involving countries ``who recognize the danger of Iran having a nuclear weapon,'' and he noted that U.S. officials are working closely nations such as Great Britain, France and Germany on the issue.''

Bush was asked if his administration was planning for the possibility of a nuclear strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

``All options are on the table,'' he said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin reaffirmed Moscow's insistence on more diplomatic efforts with Iran. ``We are convinced that neither sanctions nor the use of force will lead to the solution of the problem,'' he said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai, the country's top nonproliferation official, visited Tehran over the weekend and appealed to Iranian leaders to reach a negotiated settlement to the dispute, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Russia and China, which have strong economic ties to Iran, have opposed punitive measures. Bush said he intends to call on Chinese President Hu Jintao to step up pressure on Iran when the two leaders meet Thursday at the White House.

Britain also urged the countries to work closely together to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. ``We hope that we'll get behind a diplomatic avenue, a system of increasing but reversible pressure which Iran will listen to,'' said Julian Reilly of the British Embassy in Moscow.

Iran's ambassador to Russia, meanwhile, suggested that Tehran would prepare for war if necessary.

``One of the ways to prevent a war is to be prepared for it. But Iran will do everything possible to avoid any war in the region,'' Gholamreza Ansari was quoted as saying by the Russian news agencies. ``We hope the Iranian question will be resolved through negotiations.''

The comments came a day after Israel branded Iran as part of an ``axis of terror'' with Syria and the Hamas-run Palestinian government and said they are making ``clear declarations of war.''

``A dark cloud is looming above our region, and it is metastasizing as a result of the statements and actions by leaders of Iran, Syria and the newly elected government of the Palestinian Authority,'' Israel's U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman warned.

On Friday, Ahmadinejad called Israel a ``rotten, dried tree'' that will be annihilated by ``one storm.'' He previously angered many world leaders by calling for Israel to be ``wiped off the map.''

In Cairo, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa decried the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and called for dialogue.

``The proper way to get out of the current dilemma of the escalating nuclear file in the Middle East is through dialogue, negotiations and guarantees from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog),'' Moussa said.

Even though Russia continues to call for more diplomacy, analysts said Tehran's stubborn refusal to halt uranium enrichment efforts would make it hard for both Moscow and Beijing to stave off a U.S. push for sanctions.

``Russia will search for ways of settlement without sanctions and the use of force ... but Iran must show wisdom and flexibility,'' said Alexei Arbatov, head of the Moscow-based Center for International Security. ``If Iran doesn't help, Russia won't be able to do anything.'' READ MORE