MOSCOW, (Reuters) – Russia on Friday cautioned world powers against rushing towards sanctions to punish Iran for spurning a U.N.-brokered proposal to send its uranium abroad for processing.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Tehran to work constructively to allay Western fears over its nuclear programme but said world powers should take a sober approach and beware of pushing Iran into a corner.
“If our logic is to punish Iran, or if we take up the posture of the offended… this will not be a sober approach,” Lavrov told reporters at a news briefing. “It is not a simple situation and it is not made any easier by the domestic political situation in Iran,” said Lavrov, who added that world powers should not risk undermining the work of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“We must not take any steps that could open up risks to the work of the agency in this country,” he said.
Russia, which presents itself as the only major power with real clout in Tehran, is a crucial player in any move towards sanctions as it is a veto-wielding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
Russia has watered down previous drives for sanctions against Iran, though the Kremlin was deeply troubled last year by Iran’s disclosure about a secret nuclear facility in the holy Shi’ite city of Qom.
Lavrov said Moscow wanted “to see constructive actions from Iran” and made clear Russia was unhappy with Tehran’s dismissal of the U.N.-brokered proposal to send uranium to France and Russia for enrichment.
“We regret that Iran, by all appearances, does not consider it possible to agree to the formula it was offered as regards the production of fuel for the Tehran research reactor,” Lavrov told reporters at a briefing in Moscow.
Iran’s failure to meet an effective U.S. deadline of Dec. 31 to accept the October fuel plan brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency has prompted six world powers to start considering possible tougher sanctions against Tehran.
“Of course, the Security Council can consider additional measures,” Lavrov said.
“But we hope that all those upon whom possible future decisions depend will be guided exclusively by the interests of the non-proliferation regime … and not any other agendas.”
The United States and major European Union states say Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of its civilian atomic programme, a claim denied by Tehran, which says its nuclear activities are purely civilian.
Recent Western efforts to push for sanctions have been delayed by China, which has made clear it opposes sanctions.
Russia says it has no evidence that Tehran is seeking a nuclear bomb and has repeatedly warned the West against pushing Iran into a corner.
But senior Russian officials in Moscow have privately expressed exasperation with Tehran’s negotiating tactics and the Kremlin has been careful to leave the door open to a possible eventual additional round of sanctions as a last resort.