MOSCOW, AP – Russia said it remains opposed to sanctions against Iran and China expressed hope for a negotiated solution as senior diplomats from six countries converged in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the next step toward solving the Iranian nuclear standoff.
The United States and Britain say that if Iran does not comply with the U.N. Security Council’s April 28 deadline to stop uranium enrichment, they will seek a resolution that would make the demand compulsory.
So far, Iran has refused to give up uranium enrichment, which the United States and some of its allies suspect is meant to produce weapons. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin reaffirmed Moscow’s insistence on more diplomatic efforts with Iran. “We are convinced that neither sanctions nor the use of force will lead to the solution of the problem,” he said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai, the country’s top nonproliferation official, visited Tehran over the weekend and appealed to Iranian leaders to reach a negotiated settlement to the dispute, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
Russia and China, two of the council’s five veto-holding members, have opposed punishing Iran.
On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that Iran will “cut the hand of any aggressor” that threatens it, and insisted that Iran’s military has to be equipped with the most modern technology.
“Iran’s enemies know your courage, faith and commitment to Islam and the land of Iran has created a powerful army that can powerfully defend the political borders,” he told a parade to commemorate Iran’s Army Day.
The comments came a day after Israel branded Iran as part of an “axis of terror” with Syria and the Hamas-run Palestinian government and said they are making “clear declarations of war.”
“A dark cloud is looming above our region, and it is metastasizing as a result of the statements and actions by leaders of Iran, Syria and the newly elected government of the Palestinian Authority,” Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman warned.
On Friday, Ahmadinejad called Israel a “rotten, dried tree” that will be annihilated by “one storm.” He previously angered many world leaders by calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”
Iran’s ambassador to Russia suggested that his country would prepare for war if necessary, according to the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies.
“One of the ways to prevent a war is to be prepared for it. But Iran will do everything possible to avoid any war in the region,” Gholamreza Ansari was quoted as saying. “We hope the Iranian question will be resolved through negotiations.”
Diplomatic officials of Russia, the United States, France, Britain, Germany and China will meet over dinner Tuesday in Moscow to discuss the latest moves in the standoff, a Western diplomat said on customary condition of anonymity.
Discussions were to continue Wednesday during a meeting of envoys from the Group of Eight major industrialized nations, the diplomat said.
Even though Russia continues to call for more diplomacy, analysts said Tehran’s stubborn refusal to halt uranium enrichment efforts would make it hard for both Moscow and Beijing to stave off a U.S. push for sanctions.
“Russia will search for ways of settlement without sanctions and the use of force … but Iran must show wisdom and flexibility,” said Alexei Arbatov, head of the Moscow-based Center for International Security. “If Iran doesn’t help, Russia won’t be able to do anything.”
Tuesday’s army parade in Iran gave leaders another opportunity to show off the country’s modern military equipment, including missiles that are difficult to track with radar, super-fast torpedoes recently tested in war games and other domestically produced weapons.
The United States has said Iran may have made “some strides” in its military but was likely exaggerating its capabilities.
Analysts, too, said Iran’s president could have been posturing when he said last week that Tehran is testing a P-2 centrifuge that could be used to more speedily create fuel for power plants or atomic weapons. Such a device would be a vast improvement over the P-1 centrifuges that Iran says it has used to do small-scale enrichment.
His assertion was sure to raise concerns that Iran might have a more sophisticated atomic program than had been believed. The IAEA and some independent groups have long questioned whether Iran might have a parallel, secret program that is further along.
But Anthony Cordesman, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Monday there was no way to gauge either the truth or the significance of Ahmadinejad’s statement.
“Just making a claim about individual technical developments doesn’t tell you a thing about what progress has really been made, or how it would change their operational capabilities,” Cordesman said.