WASHINGTON, AP -Lacking assurances from Russia and China that they would approve of U.N. sanctions, the Bush administration is trying to deny Iran technology, assets and especially weapons to slow down a suspected nuclear weapons program.
As part of that campaign, a top State Department official urged Russia on Friday to drop its plan to sell Tor anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.
“We hope and we trust that the deal will not go forward because this is not time for business as usual with the Iranian government,” said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns. He has been trying to line up support for the sanctions proposal the United States and the European Union are hoping to make at the U.N. Security Council early next month.
Referring to Russia and China, Burns told reporters, “The message privately was that we do not have an agreement” about specific tactics in the U.N. Security Council.
But he said no nation wanted to see Iran build nuclear weapons — a goal Iran denies pursuing with its enrichment and other nuclear programs — so other measures were being promoted.
“It’s time for countries to use their leverage with Iran,” Burns said, beginning with prohibiting Iran access to technology that has military applications.
A lot of countries have multibillion-dollar trade relations with Iran “and they ought to begin to rethink those commercial trade relationships,” Burns said.
No country should sell weapons to Iran, he added.
Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph, who is in charge of nonproliferation policy at the department, said he had made a similar pitch on a trip to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries.
Joseph said he talked to officials there about limiting banking transactions with Iran to crimp its ability to acquire more technology. He said he also discussed greater cooperation in establishing a missile defense.
“The Iranians have put both feet on the accelerator,” he said. “They are moving very quickly to establish new realities on the ground associated with their nuclear program.”
The United States has pushed for more than two years to bring Iran’s nuclear programs before the U.N. Security Council. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is due to make a report to the council at the end of April.
“There’s only one thing he can really report,” Burns said, “and that is that Iran is not in compliance with the terms of the presidential statement issued by the Security Council.”
Adopted last month, the statement calls on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment-related activities and to resume negotiations with the European Union.