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Russia opposes new Iran sanctions over IAEA report

Divide between Moscow and West over IAEA report; New sanctions 'unacceptable' to Moscow; Russia built nuclear power station in Iran

November 10, 2011 11:03 by

Russia said on Wednesday that Moscow would not support new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme and called for a revival of talks between Tehran and global powers.

The remarks by a deputy foreign minister came during a visit by a senior Iranian official for talks on the programme which Tehran says is peaceful but the United States and its allies fear is aimed at developing atomic weapons.

They underscored a divide between Russia, a veto-wielding UN Security Council member, and the West over how to react to a report by the UN nuclear watchdog that deepened US and European suspicions about Tehran’s intentions.

“Any additional sanctions against Iran will be seen in the international community as an instrument for regime change in Tehran,” the Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilovas saying.

“That approach is unacceptable to us, and the Russian side does not intend to consider such proposals.”
In a report on Tuesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran appeared to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be conducting secret research.

A US official said the United States could impose more sanctions on Iran. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the Security Council should be convened and that Paris was ready to adopt “unprecedented” sanctions if Tehran refused to cooperate with efforts to ensure it is not pursuing nuclear weapons.

Russia has grudgingly approved four rounds of UN sanctions on Iran after watering them down, withChina. But it has criticised Western states for imposing additional punitive measures and signalled in recent months that it would oppose a new push for sanctions in the Security Council.

Russia has close ties with Iran and built a nuclear power plant that was switched on in the Islamic republic this year. It has repeatedly said too much pressure on Tehran is counterproductive.

Russia is instead calling for a step-by-step process under which existing sanctions would be eased in return for actions by Tehran to dispel international concerns.

Moscow criticised the release of the IAEA report on Tuesday, saying it seemed to be designed to scuttle diplomatic efforts and would dim hopes for new talks between Iran and six powers — Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

In a visit that appeared to have been timed to coincide with the report’s release, Ali Baqeri, deputy secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, met Russian presidential Security CouncilSecretary Niklolai Patrushev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday.

In the meeting, Russia “expressed readiness to provide support for the peaceful settlement of the (nuclear) problem” and emphasised the need to find mutually acceptable solutions through talks between Iran and the six powers as well as the IAEA, the Russian Security Council said in a statement.

The Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it would need time to determine whether the IAEA report contained reliable new evidence of a military dimension to Tehran’s nuclear programme or was an intentional “whipping up of emotions”.

Senior Russian security officials accept the West has legitimate concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme. But officials, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is expected to return to the presidency next year, have said there is no clear evidence Iran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb.

Analysts say Moscow may have calculated that it has little to gain from supporting new sanctions against Iran. This would hurt ties already damaged by its backing of the most recent measures in June 2010, when President Dmitry Medvedev also scrapped a deal to deliver air-defence missiles to Tehran.

Those sanctions were adopted at a time of improving relations between Russia and the United States, after President Barack Obama downsized a European missile defence plan that Russia opposed and signed a nuclear arms limitation treaty with Medvedev. (Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Robert Woodward)

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