Monday, October 23, 2006

Russia will block UN sanctions on Iran

Business Day - Russia stuck to its guns on Iran at the weekend, saying it would definitely block any United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution to sanction Iran for its nuclear programme.

The European Union said on Tuesday that its diplomatic effort had failed to curb Iran’s nuclear programme and the UN should act on US-led demands for sanctions. A resolution to impose limited sanctions on Iran might come before the security council this week, Russian state television reported yesterday.

However, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday that Russia would veto any such move because there was no evidence the country was developing nuclear weapons.

“We will oppose any attempts to use the security council to punish Iran or use Iran’s nuclear programme to promote the removal of the regime there,” Lavrov said in an interview.

Russia holds a veto in the security council as one of its five permanent members.

Iran ignored an August 31 UN deadline for halting enrichment.

There were “questions” Iran had not answered and Russia was urging it to do that, Lavrov said.

Iran’s foreign minister said on Saturday Iran had invited western representatives for discussions of why Tehran was continuing uranium enrichment in the face of international sanctions threats.

Iran has insisted its nuclear intentions are peaceful, but analysts fear Iran is being duplicitous in dealing with the UN. Iran has held several meetings on its programme, but has failed to convince negotiators that its longer term goals are not towards a nuclear bomb.

“We don’t see any logic to suspending uranium enrichment. Enrichment of uranium by Iran is a legal action derived from its membership rights in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” said Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. “But we are ready to hold talks about the reason for enrichment,” he said.

Iran has been locked in a standoff with the west over its nuclear programme. French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said on Friday her country would be willing to suspend the drive for sanctions if Iran took steps to resolve questions over its nuclear programme. France also has veto power on the security council.