Russia warns West against Iran strike, sanctions

By REUTERS
January 18, 2012 12:38

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says strike on nuclear facilities would be "catastrophic," opposes sanctions he says are aimed at triggering popular discontent by "strangling" the economy.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

MOSCOW - Russia warned on Wednesday that an attack on Iran would cause a catastrophe and said US and European Union sanctions against Tehran were aimed at triggering popular discontent by "strangling" the economy.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Western sanctions against Iran and talk of a potential attack undermine efforts to revive negotiations aimed at ensuring it does not develop nuclear weapons.

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Speaking at his annual news conference, Lavrov said Western nations must focus on efforts to revive long-dormant talks between global powers and Tehran "and not on sanctions, let alone threats to use force".

"I have no doubt that it would pour fuel on a fire which is already smoldering, the hidden smoldering fire of Sunni-Shi'ite confrontation, and beyond that (cause) a chain reaction - I don't know where it would stop," he said of an attack.

"On the chances of whether this catastrophe will happen or not you should ask those who repeatedly talk about this," Lavrov said.

Israel has often said it could strike Iran to stop it developing nuclear weapons, and tension has increased following a Iranian threat to block the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial oil shipping lane, if sanctions prevent it exporting oil.

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Iranian threat


Lavrov emphasized Russia's opposition to further UN Security Council or Western sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, which the United States and its European allies fear is aimed at producing weapons.

"All imaginable sanctions that could influence Iran's conduct in the nuclear sphere ... have been exhausted," Lavrov said.

Additional sanctions "are aimed at causing a strangling effect on the Iranian economy and the situation of the Iranian people, probably in the hope of provoking discontent," he said.

US deserves no explanation on Syria arms

Addressing criticism for Russia's sale of weapons to conflict-torn Syria, Lavrov said Russia has no intention to justify its actions to the United Statesy.

The United States said it had raised concerns after a Russian-operated ship carrying what a Cypriot official said was ammunition arrived in Syria last week from St. Petersburg after being held up in Cyprus.

"We don't consider it necessary to explain ourselves or justify ourselves, because we are not violating any international agreements or any (UN) Security Council resolutions," Lavrov told the news conference.

The US envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said on Tuesday that the United States had "very grave concern about arms flows into Syria from any source."

She said it was unfortunate that there was no arms embargo against Syria, where the United Nations says more than 5,000 civilians have been killed in a 10-months crackdown on opposition to President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

Russia, which along with China blocked a UN Security Council resolution in October that threatened an arms embargo on Syria, says an embargo would cut off supplies to the government while enabling armed opponents to receive weapons illegally.


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