Sunday, May 07, 2006

Rice Presses Russia on Iran Nuclear Resolution
Russia’s foreign minister and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked about Iran’s nuclear program on Saturday after Russia and China opposed the latest draft of a U.N. Security Council resolution that could eventually lead to sanctions of the Islamic republic.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a terse statement that Sergey Lavrov’s phone conversation with Rice “focused, among other issues, on the search for a diplomatic solution of the Iranian nuclear problem.”

The State Department had no immediate comment on the discussion. READ MORE

The conversation came after Russia and China complained Friday about a draft Security Council resolution prepared by the United States, Britain and France.

Resolution calls for compliance

Under the proposed draft, the Security Council’s late March demand for Iran to stop enriching uranium would be made mandatory, and Tehran would be given a short period to comply. If Iran refused, the resolution said, the council would consider “further measures” to ensure compliance.

Enrichment can be used to develop fuel for a nuclear reactor or fissile material for a nuclear weapon.

Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Friday that Moscow opposed the sponsors’ push for the resolution to be adopted under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can be enforced by sanctions or, if necessary, military action.

It is too early to say which changes should be made to the draft resolution to satisfy Russia,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said Saturday in Moscow, according to the RIA Novosti, ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies. “At present consultations are ongoing.”

He did not elaborate.

Impasse over proliferation risk

The draft also includes a declaration that the “proliferation risk” posed by Iran constitutes a threat to international peace and security.

China and Russia both said they oppose putting the resolution under Chapter 7 or referring to Iran as a threat to international peace and security.

The U.S., Britain and France had been hoping that the Security Council would adopt the draft before a meeting on Monday in New York between foreign ministers of six key nations trying to negotiate with Iran. Germany, which has been leading European negotiations along with Britain and France, helped draft the resolution.

It became clear after meetings at the United Nations on Friday that Russia and China opposed the measure and bridging the divide would be difficult.

The Security Council agreed to hold an informal meeting on Saturday afternoon to go over members’ concerns about the text.

Russia offers to host program

The International Atomic Energy Agency last week said Iran had not complied with a Security Council call for it to abandon uranium enrichment. Russia has joined calls for Iran to stop its enrichment activities, and has proposed hosting the Iranian uranium enrichment effort. The plan is intended to dispel international fears that Iran could divert uranium to a weapons program.

The Iranian Embassy in Moscow said Friday that it was still considering Russia’s enrichment proposal, but Iran has refused the Russian proposal’s link to a suspension of its domestic enrichment effort, and chances for a compromise appeared low.

In Saudi Arabia, six of Iran’s Persian Gulf neighbors urged Tehran on Saturday to be frank with them about its nuclear program.

The kings and emirs of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates met privately in Riyadh in what a Gulf Cooperation Council statement described as a “consultative” summit.

The gathering discussed developments in Iran, Iraq and combatting terrorism, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan told journalists on behalf of the GCC leaders after talks ended.

“Iran should be transparent in dealing with the region,” regarding its nuclear program, Al Nahyan said.

The Gulf nations will seek guarantees against “environmental hazards” potentially posed by Iranian nuclear reactors, he added.