RUSSIA WARNS AGAINST IRAN WAR –Defence Minister concerned by nuclear programme tensions


Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov has expressed the hope that tension in relations between Iran and the West in connection with the Iranian nuclear programme will not result in an armed conflict flaring up between them.

He said on Monday: ‘I very much hope that it will not come to that.’

Ivanov confirmed that Russian-Iranian talks on the issue of enrichment of Iranian nuclear fuel on Russian soil were currently being held in Tehran.

The deputy prime minister added: ‘I have no information about the results of those talks, but I know that they are going on.

‘A Russian delegation consisting of representatives of the Security Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently in Tehran.’

He continued by saying: ‘Russia has made what I regard as a very sensible proposal in order not to violate the norms of international law and not to alarm the international community.

‘It has proposed that enrichment of Iranian nuclear fuel be carried out on its (Russia’s) soil.

‘And this is the subject of the talks.’

According to Ivanov: ‘The Iranian nuclear problem really exists, and it must be tackled by political and diplomatic means within the framework of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).’

German Foreign Minister Steinmeier said earlier when arriving in Genshagen for talks with Britain and France: ‘On the one hand, the talks with Russia on the Russian proposal to carry out the enrichment of uranium outside Iran’s borders have obviously not been successful.

‘As everybody heard, Iran has announced that it will break the seals and resume activities concerning the enrichment of uranium.

‘This would be a breach of the commitments that we concluded in Paris with France, Great Britain and Iran itself. This cannot remain without consequences.’

International Atomic Energy Agency head Muhamed El Baradei said in an interview that the international community was losing patience with Tehran over its nuclear programme.

Concerns about a ‘military solution to the conflict’ over Iran’s nuclear programme were debated on Russian Ekho Moskvy radio on Monday.

A political analyst and chairman of the National Civil Council on International Affairs, Sergey Markov, described Russia’s policy towards Iran as moderate.

Markov said: ‘One should not react hysterically and not go for a conflict with the leadership of Iran but one should retain a firm line of stick and carrot – one could call it that – of rewarding positive actions and attempting to hold back the expansion of the still totalitarian regime in Iran.

‘Russia, in this sense, is closer to the European troika, which supports more moderate positions, than to the USA, which supports a harsher position.

‘At the same time, most countries also hope for large contracts with Iran and therefore they prefer not to quarrel with Iran.

‘In addition to this, Iran is also connected to Russia by the fact that they are both certain guarantors of stability in this region.

‘Let’s not forget that the Caucasus is, broadly speaking, located between Iran and Russia.’

For his part, the head of the Centre for Analysis of Strategy and Technology, Ruslan Pukhov, described the latest statement by the head of the IAEA as substantially narrowing the scope for finding a political solution to the problem.

Pukhov said: ‘The prospect for voting in the UN Security Council when the Iranian dossier is forwarded there, which would include the condemnation of Iran and imposing sanctions of some kind, the likelihood of this happening is not high.

‘Not only because Russia and China would most likely veto any decision on Iran, but also other countries, which will vote on the Iranian dossier, should always check how this case would apply to themselves.

‘This is because there are no legal grounds – say, on the basis of the presumption of innocence – for dragging the Iranian dossier to the Security Council.

‘Simply, the Americans are insisting on this and therefore it seems to me that one should be looking for some diplomatic opportunities for settling this crisis using not only pressure, which is what is happening at the moment, but also some kind of carrot, so to speak.

Generally speaking, the issue of Iran’s nuclear strategy should be discussed on the basis of the IAEA having or not having complaints, the head of the State Duma international affairs committee, Konstantin Kosachev told the radio.

Kosachev said: ‘All the categories that are currently being used by the head of the IAEA are somewhat vulnerable.

‘From the legal point of view we should not discuss the Iranian situation using categories like whether we have sufficient amount of patience or not.

‘This issue could only be discussed in terms of the IAEA having or not having complaints about Iran from the point of view of Iran fulfilling its obligations within the regime of the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

‘And in this sense, perhaps, we should now organise and monitor the work of IAEA inspectors in the most attentive manner.

‘And only on the basis of their conclusions regarding legality and legitimacy of Iran’s actions in the nuclear sphere, one could take a position on a possible response in respect of Iran.

‘Everything else is from the area of political conjecture and not of professional work.’

Meanwhile, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has given his support to President Ahmadinejad and his initiative for the cooperation of Western countries in Iran’s nuclear programme.

Addressing a rally in Qom on the anniversary of the 9 January 1978 Qom uprising, Khamenei underlined that Iran will not give up its nuclear right and is ready to cooperate with other countries to acquire the technology.

Khamenei called on the people to maintain unity at this juncture, saying that the people should not give the enemy the impression that there are differences among them.

On threats of possible sanctions against Iran, he said the Iranian nation will not be frightened by those threats and will be happy to improve its capabilities on its own.

Referring to Iraq, he said the West, and the US in particular, has failed.

‘The opposite of what they wanted to happen in Iraq took place.’

In Palestine, Sharon failed and was defeated by Intifada, he said.

He said the US and its Western allies are now trying to get Syria and Lebanon into a regional dispute.

He called on the leaders of the regional countries to be vigilant and not let the US infiltrate into their societies.