Russia and Iran Gab over Lebanon Crisis
The Jerusalem Post:
President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discussed the Lebanon crisis and tensions over Iran's nuclear program, the Kremlin said. The two leaders spoke over the telephone on Tuesday, a brief statement said. Ahmadinejad arrived Tuesday in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan for a two-day visit. READ MORE
Iran initiated the call, the statement said, but gave no other details other than to say that Putin "laid out the principal positions of the Russian side."
Russia has cultivated close relations with Iran, but has shown few overt signs of being able to influence Ahmadinejad's government either on the Middle East - where Iran is one of the main supporters of the terrorist group Hizbullah - or on the nuclear issue.
Ahmadinejad warned Tuesday that the conflict between Lebanon and Israel could trigger "a hurricane" of broader fighting in the Middle East.
"All issues of international security must be resolved through dialogue, because force does not bring a solution," the Iranian leader said. "All outstanding issues must be solved by just means, taking into consideration cultural issues and religious beliefs. Lebanon is a sovereign nation with its own religion and culture. The use of force will only exacerbate the situation."
Russia has tried to defuse tensions over Iran's nuclear program with a proposal that all enriched uranium used by Iran come from Russia - which would allow control of whether the uranium was enriched to weapons-grade. Iran has not overtly rejected the proposal, but has not accepted it.
By holding the proposal at arms' length, Iran has frustrated Russia, which has sought to use its close political and commercial contacts with Iran as a lever of influence. The Bushehr nuclear plant that is at the center of the controversy over whether Iran intends to build nuclear weapons is Russian-built.
Russia, as a UN Security Council member with veto power, has resisted Western proposals to slap Iran with sanctions. Diplomats on Tuesday said the United States and key European nations are moving closer to agreement with Russia on a resolution that would give Iran about a month to suspend uranium enrichment or face economic and diplomatic sanctions.
Russia also has stepped up efforts in recent months to exert influence in the Middle East, including contacts with Hamas after they won Palestinian elections. It hosted a high-level Hamas delegation at Putin's invitation in March, when Moscow broke ranks with other members of the so-called Quartet of Mideast negotiators but failed to persuade the group to soften its anti-Israel stance and renounce its goal to seek Israel's destruction.
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said this month that Russia was using its contacts with radical Muslims, including Hamas, to try to promote a resolution of the escalating confrontation.