(photo credit: AP)
Russia's foreign minister said that any economic sanctions imposed by the international community on Iran for its nuclear programs would preclude the use of military force, Russian news agencies reported Wednesday.
"We'll decide whether or not to make use of these measures in a complex way, but guided by just one goal - to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," Sergey Lavrov was quoted as saying Interfax. "We are also aware that economic pressure should be proportional to a real threat to peace and security."
Lavrov spoke to reporters in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was accompanying President Vladimir Putin on a state visit.
He said the UN Security Council's recent resolution on Iran hold out the possibility of further measures on Iran - including those spelled out in Article 41 of the UN Charter. The article allows punishments that do not involve the use of armed force, such as economic penalties, banning air travel or breaking diplomatic relations.
The resolution "says in clear terms that economic sanctions exclude the use of force," Lavrov was quoted as saying.
Russia, along with China, has steadfastly opposed efforts by the United States and other Western nations to bring sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program. Washington says Tehran is seeking to build nuclear weapons; Tehran says its programs are for electricity generation.
Meanwhile, talks meant to give Tehran a last chance to avoid UN sanctions over its nuclear defiance were postponed Wednesday, with a senior Iranian envoy saying "a procedural matter" had caused a delay of several days.
The United States and key European allies Britain and France had agreed to wait for the result of talks between the EU's top envoy and Iran's top nuclear negotiator in an attempt to mollify both Moscow and Beijing.
In Moscow, a top Kremlin aide said Tuesday that Russia remained reluctant to impose sanctions on Iran, although this did not imply support for a nuclear-armed Iran.