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Russia believes it is "crucial" to have a nuclear-free Iran, Andrey Demidov, currently Russia's top diplomat in Israel, has said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, distancing Moscow from those saying a nuclear Iran is inevitable.
Demidov, Russia's acting ambassador, said Russia did not agree with French President Chirac's comment that one or two nuclear bombs in Iranian hands would not be disastrous.
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"We want Iran to be nuclear-free, and we will work in that direction. Iran is very far away from France, and he [Chirac] can say whatever he wants, he is going to leave [office soon]. But for us it is crucial, important to have a nuclear-free Iran," Demidov said.
Demidov said Russia was concerned about regime change in Iran that could bring to power in Teheran leaders hostile to Moscow.
"The Americans are trying to change the regime. What if the ayatollahs go, and there is a new shah?" he said. "The shah was very hostile to my country. First of all we want to have a friendly regime in Iran, and secondly we want it to be nuclear-free."
At the same time, Demidov said Russia was opposed to a stricter sanctions regime against Iran because of the belief that economic sanctions have not historically proven themselves effective.
Demidov denied press reports that Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missiles were once again being smuggled across the Syrian border into Lebanon and said that Israel has not provided Moscow with any intelligence information to back this up.
He also said Russia has rejected Syrian requests for long-range missiles, because Russian President Vladimir Putin promised former prime minister Ariel Sharon that he would not do anything to tip the balance of power in the region.
Regarding the Palestinians, he was very critical of the US, which he accused of having "dictatorial ambitions," and said that not only did the administration have no plan to move the diplomatic process forward, but was also "quite jealous" of other initiatives.