TEHRAN, Iran, AP – The chief of Russia’s security council said Sunday that Russia opposes any use of force against Iran over its controversial nuclear program, the Iranian state-run television reported.
“Unlike the U.S., Russia believes Iran’s nuclear program needs to be resolved only through dialogue. Any use of force will further complicate the issue and will cause tension in the region,” Igor Ivanov was quoted as saying by the station.
Ivanov made the comments during a meeting with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.
Ivanov arrived in Tehran late Saturday to discuss Iran’s contentious nuclear program, including incentives to be offered as a reward if the Islamic Republic suspends uranium enrichment and possible sanctions if it continues.
His visit took place as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed Iran’s nuclear standoff with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the phone, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Ivanov’s trip came ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers from six world powers scheduled next week to decide on a package of incentives for Iran to stop enriching uranium.
The five Security Council members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — plus Germany appeared to have narrowed their differences on a package of rewards or sanctions for Iran during high-level talks in London on Wednesday.
Russia and China have opposed calls by the United States, Britain and France for a resolution that would threaten sanctions and be enforceable by military action if Iran does not give up enriching uranium.
But a compromise is emerging that would rule out military action and call for new consultations among the five permanent Security Council members on any further steps against Iran, diplomats said.
Iran has said it will not give up its right to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel as allowed by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory.
The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Tehran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied this, saying its nuclear program is merely to generate electricity.
Iran announced April 11 that it had enriched uranium for the first time, using 164 centrifuges. Enrichment can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or material for a warhead — but tens of thousands of centrifuges are needed to do either on a large scale.
Iran intends to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment involving 3,000 centrifuges by late 2006, and then expand the program to 54,000 centrifuges.
But Iran’s media quoted Iran’s ambassador to the U.N., Javad Zarif, as saying Sunday that Tehran could limit enrichment as a way to resolve the mounting crisis with the West.
“We will agree to limited enrichment,” the daily Etemad Melli, or National Confidence, quoted Zarif as saying.