Monday, May 08, 2006

Top US sen. want Russia-Iran ties on G8 agenda

Top opposition senators urged President George W Bush to put Iran-Russia ties, including an arms sale, on the agenda at the Group of Eight summit in St Petersburg in July, said AFP.

The Democratic senators made their request in a letter to Bush ahead of a meeting Tuesday in which officials from the world's seven wealthiest nations plus Russia will discuss the G8 summit's agenda.

"With global energy security as the theme for this year's summit, we trust you will ensure that Russia's planned military sales to Iran will be on the agenda," said the letter signed by Senate minority leader Harry Reid and influential senators Carl Levin and Joseph Biden. READ MORE

"These weapons sales will almost certainly contribute to further unrest in the Middle East, which could lead to even greater pressure on global energy markets. Both developments would be at odds with US national security interests," the letter said.

The letter cited Russia's planned sale of 29 Tor-M1 mobile air defense missile systems to Iran.

"This sale is apparently part of a broader defense agreement between Russia and Iran to provide Tehran with MiG fighters, long-range defense systems, patrol boats and tanks," the senators said.

"Mr. President, the Kremlin's backsliding on democracy and interference with the energy supplies of its neighbors has raised serious concerns about Russia's direction ahead of this year's G-8 Summit," they wrote.

"But your attendance at the summit could still be beneficial if you use the power of your office to persuade the Russians to cancel these arms transfers.

"All G-8 member states, not only the United States, have an interest in seeing that this sale be stopped and they should welcome this subject being added to the agenda."

The letter comes as the United States and its European allies press for a strong UN Security Council resolution legally requiring that Iran suspend sensitive nuclear work, which the West fears could be used to build an atomic bomb.

"We also hope you will use the meeting to urge Russia to join us and the other members of the G-8 in pressing Iran to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons and in taking effective steps toward that goal," the senators wrote.