Russia slashes sanctions against Iran in draft UN resolution

putin Larijani

Publish date: November 14, 2006

Written by: Charles Digges

Russian proposals for restricting materials that could aid Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear programme are far less comprehensive than hoped and “would cut back substantially” into the prohibitions on nuclear materials going to Tehran the United States and its allies are seeking, said US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) John Bolton Monday.

The cutbacks in sanctions suggested by Russia could reap a cash harvest for the country, as Moscow could become Iran’s sole supplier of uranium nuclear fuel for a reactor it is building for Tehran – as well as securing a possible fuel monopoly for more reactors Russia has said it will build in the Islamic Republic.

Bolton said Russia specified its proposed changes to the text of the resolution during a meeting Monday of the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany —- the key parties in a standoff with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, the Associated Press reported. He spoke to reporters after another meeting of Germany and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council states with veto rights on a European draft resolution imposing sanctions on Iran and Russia’s amendments

The draft resolution backed by the United States and Europe would order all countries to ban the supply of materials and technology that could contribute to Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes and impose a travel ban and asset freeze on companies, individuals and organizations involved in those programs.

Russia wants sanctions to focus only on "enrichment-related and reprocessing activities," heavy-water reactors and the development of "nuclear weapon delivery systems," a spokesman for the Kremlin told Bellona Web. Moscow’s amendments also delete European demands for the European-suggested asset freezes and travel bans.

Russian interests would be hurt by nuclear sanctions
Russia is deeply involved in completing Iran’s first nuclear power plant – an $800 m, 1,000 megawatt light water reactor in the Iranian port town of Bushehr – and has ambitions to build at least three more reactors for the Islamic Republic. Moscow opposes language in the resolution that does not specify that Moscow is exempt from sending Tehran nuclear supplies for these purposes, the Kremlin spokesman said.

The Bushehr plant is to be fully operational by November 2007. This has caused Russia to become something of an apologist for Iran since Tehran skipped a UN imposed deadline to stop enriching uranium by August 31 or face sanctions. Moscow has repeatedly denied that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons programme, saying Tehran’s nuclear ambitions are for power generation alone.

But Bolton said that Russia’s proposed amendments to the draft resolution would “cut back substantially from the scope” of the lists of suppliers of materials and technology included in the document, AP reported. He would not elaborate on the differences between the two sides, but said he would consult with Washington about how to proceed before the negotiators’ next meeting on Wednesday.

He added that adding that experts on all sides would now have to review Moscow’s proposals.

Russia remains optimistic
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said after the meeting that he had presented the United States and its allies with “extensive technical answers” to questions they had raised at their last meeting, Reuters reported.

He remained optimistic that negotiations would continue.

“I think the whole purpose of this exercise is to better understand where we all are coming from,” he told reporters.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials over the weekend in Moscow to discuss the nuclear standoff.

Larijani remained defiant after the first round of meetings on Friday, saying Tehran would push ahead with its nuclear programme. He did not speak to the media on Saturday, but Russian officials said they believed talks with Iran were still possible, the Mosnews web site reported.

Russia with West on stopping Iranian uranium enrichment
Despite Russia’s proposed amendments to the to the UN’s draft resolution on sanctions against Iran, it nonetheless supports the position of the United States and its allies in Europe that Iran cease its uranium enrichment programme.

Diplomatically, Russia has taken this position to ease tensions between Iran and the West that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.

Chance for Russian economic gain on uranium market
But Moscow also stands to benefit economically should it become Iran’s sole source of reactor-grade uranium.

Russia – whose amendments to the resolution cut it by half – complained during talks that the European draft sanctions are too broad and too strong, and pushed the point that all references to the Bushehr plant be removed from the resolution’s text.

Both Russia and China, which also has major commercial ties with Iran, have publicly pushed for dialogue instead of UN punishment, despite the collapse last month of a European Union attempt to entice Iran into talks.

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