Russia widens gap with West over sanctions against Iran

Publish date: November 15, 2006

Russian negotiators again stalled a proposed raft of United Nations (UN) sanctions against Iran prohibiting the import into the Islamic Republic supplies that would help the country with the development of its hotly-contested nuclear programme, news agencies reported.

The United States and Europe wish to impose sanctions against Iran to punish it for its nuclear programme and refusal to stop enriching uranium.

But Russia has deep nuclear industry investments in Iran and is building it an $800 m. 1,000 megawatt reactor in the port town of Bushehr which is set to come online in a year. Russia has thus far demanded that all language pertaining to Bushehr be stricken from the draft sanctions.

Diplomats reported no progress in Wednesday meetings, which were hoped to lead to a compromise.

"Well there is movement, but is it a progress movement or some other movement, I cannot tell," said Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin,, as quoted by Reuters, adding there had been "a rather intense exchange of opinion.

"We had an exchange of views across the range of issues," John Bolton, US Ambassador to the U said after a sixth round of talks among six nations. "I don’t know that we’ve accomplished anything I would describe as progress today, but we did talk about a number of issues."

The West believes Iran’s uranium enrichment work is a cover for bomb-making while Tehran says it is for peaceful uses. Though Russia stands by what it says is Iran’s right to have a nuclear programme for energy purposes, it stands by its western counterparts in demanding that the country cease uranium enrichment.

The draft resolution for sanctions drawn up by Britain, France and Germany and backed by Washington demands nations prevent the sale or supply of equipment, technology or financing that would contribute to Iran’s nuclear or ballistic missile programmes.

Russia, backed by China, has submitted amendments cutting roughly half of the European draft and leaves nations to decide which items Iran can buy.

Senior foreign office officials from the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia had a telephone conference call on Iran on Wednesday but apparently failed to break the impasse, Churkin said, according to Reuters.