Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Iran Says Russia and China will Not Back Sanctions

Iran's foreign minister was quoted on Tuesday as saying that Russia and China had officially informed Tehran they would not support sanctions or military action over the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme.

U.N. ambassadors from the United States, Britain and France are expected to introduce a resolution this week to legally oblige Iran to comply with U.N. Security Council demands it halt all uranium enrichment work. READ MORE

When asked how far Russia and China, veto-wielding permanent members of the council, would support Washington, Manouchehr Mottaki told the Kayhan newspaper:

"The thing these two countries have officially told us and expressed in diplomatic negotiations is their opposition to sanctions and military attacks."

"At the current juncture, I personally believe no sanctions or anything like that will be on the agenda of the Security Council," he said in the interview.

Western diplomats say China and Russia will probably back a U.N. resolution demanding a halt to Iran's fuel work, but are not yet ready to back moves towards sanctions.

Iran has been hauled before the U.N. Security Council after failing to convince the international community that its nuclear power station programme is not a front for building an atom bomb.

China and Russia both have big energy interests in Iran, the world's fourth biggest oil exporter. In 2005, more than 11 percent of China's crude imports came from Iran. Russia's LUKOIL is exploring the Anaran oilfield in western Iran.

China is also planning a multi-billion-dollar deal to buy Iranian Liquefied Natural Gas when it comes onstream in return for an upstream stake in a huge southern Iranian oilfield.

Russia has been helping Iran build its first nuclear power station at the southern port of Bushehr, a $1 billion (549 million pound) project, and Tehran has said it is keen for foreign firms, particularly Russian, to play a role in building more reactors.

However, both China and Russia also have strong trade ties with the United States and European Union whose positions on Iran are becoming increasingly united.