Friday, August 25, 2006

Russia Rules Out Iran Sanctions for Now

Ron Popeski, Reuters:
Russia ruled out on Friday any discussion for now of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, saying these had proved ineffective internationally in the past and there was still room for diplomacy.

"I know of no instances in world practice and previous experience in which sanctions have achieved their aim and proved effective," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said.

"Moreover, I believe that the question is not so serious at the moment for the U.N. Security Council or the group of six to consider any introduction of sanctions. Russia stands for further political and diplomatic efforts to settle the issue." READ MORE

The five permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia -- along with Germany have threatened sanctions against Iran if it does not suspend uranium enrichment by August 31.

They have also offered Iran a package of economic and technical incentives in return for giving up enrichment.

Iran this week offered to hold talks on its nuclear programme -- which it denies is a front for producing nuclear bombs, saying it is meant only for generating electricity.

But the United States has called its response insufficient, though a U.S. State Department spokesman said on Thursday there was still time for Iran to comply with the August 31 deadline.

Ivanov who is known to be close to Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin, was shown on NTV television, speaking to reporters in Russia's far east.

Russia, which is building a nuclear power plant in Iran, has traditionally argued that sanctions would be ineffective.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is seen as the Western power least keen to resort to sanctions, said on Thursday the Iranian reply was unsatisfactory.

"From everything I hear, we cannot be satisfied with it. What we expected is not stated there, namely: 'We will suspend our uranium enrichment and come to the negotiating table'," she told Germany's N24 television.

"The decisive sentence is missing and this needs to be addressed."

That comment was echoed by French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Friday, though he also said it was important to avoid escalating a conflict with Iran and the Muslim world.

"For the moment it is not satisfactory," he said on RTL radio. "But the worst thing would be to escalate into a confrontation with Iran on the one hand, and the Muslim world with Iran, and the West."

"The resolution demands they suspend all uranium enrichment activity before August 31. I'm starting from the principle that we should have a dialogue with the Iranians, that we must hold out our hands to them."

The Security Council passed a legally binding resolution on July 31 telling Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment programme within 30 days or risk punitive sanctions.

(Additional reporting by Anna Willard in Paris)