iran nuke plant 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Russia said on Friday that the Iranian nuclear crisis must be solved under the aegis of the UN nuclear watchdog agency, and called on Iran to cooperate more fully with the organization.
"The search for a solution must follow the route of diplomacy, and our position is that the instrument for resolving this problem, as before, must remain the IAEA, as we don't have another international agency that has such authority and competence in the non-proliferation area," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak told a Moscow security conference.
"Our advice to our Iranian colleagues and friends is to complete work with the IAEA and to calmly continue its nuclear energy program ... and on this path we are ready to provide assistance to Iran," Kislyak said.
Kislyak's comments reflected Russia's continued insistence that the Iran issue not be transferred to the UN Security Council, where the prospect of imposing sanctions looms. They came on a day when Russian officials seemed at pains to emphasize their continued differences with the United States on how to handle the nuclear crisis.
"One can speak of sanctions only after the appearance of concrete facts proving that Iran is not engaged exclusively in peaceful nuclear activities," the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin as saying.
He also said that "force and sanctions alone cannot remove the world community's concern over Iran's nuclear program," ITAR-Tass reported.
Nikolai Spassky, deputy head of the Kremlin Security Council, put it even more bluntly.
"There is no such issue (of sanctions) for us," he was quoted as saying by the RIA-Novosti news agency. "We are not discussing it."
Spassky added that there were no circumstances that would obstruct fulfillment of Russia's obligations in military-technical cooperation with Iran.
"This goes for all the obligations we have made, including the commitment to provide Iran with Tor-M1 air-defense systems," Spassky stressed.
Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency said, meanwhile, that Tehran was prepared to cooperate.
"We have always been and will be prepared to remove any ambiguity about our nuclear activities and to prove that they are exclusively for peaceful purposes and will remain exclusively for peaceful purposes," Ali Asghar Soltanieh said.
He warned that "any engagement by the UN Security Council would make the situation deteriorate."
"We advise all to let the IAEA do its job and we are determined to continue full cooperation with the IAEA," Soltanieh said.
Other countries were unmoved however. "We've heard all this before," one European official said on condition of anonymity. "We'll await (IAEA chief Mohamed) ElBaradei's report. ... We'll take our judgment then on what the next move is."
On Thursday, Moscow rejected a U.S. call to end cooperation in constructing the US$800 million Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran.