iran map nuclear 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
A top Russian security official and a senior lawmaker suggested Tuesday that Moscow could back a draft UN Security Council resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran, despite Russia's long-held opposition to punishing Teheran.
"The Russian political leadership will apparently have to join a new resolution on Iran proposed by Britain, Germany and France that envisages limited economic sanctions," Yuri Volkov, a deputy speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, said in a statement.
Volkov has played a low-key role in the past and made no statements on global politics, although he is in charge of inter-parliamentary contacts with Iran. Like most other members of the Duma, he belongs to the Kremlin-controlled United Russia faction.
It is unclear whether he has any access to Kremlin decision-making. But Igor Ivanov, the head of Russia's presidential Security Council, made comments later that also suggested Moscow could support the draft European resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.
"Resolutions and sanctions are not a goal in themselves. They are just one of the elements," Ivanov told a news conference. "And if such a resolution is worked out, it will be first of all be one of the elements aimed at assisting political negotiations."
"Any decision in the Security Council must be aimed not at punishing Iran but at achieving our goals through political means," Ivanov said. The goal, he said, is to preserve Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy while ensuring it does not develop nuclear weapons.
Ivanov's comments suggested that Russia - which is wary of angering Iran by appearing to join the West in calls for punishment - could cast support for limited sanctions as a path toward further talks.
"Russia continues to call for a political settlement," he said.
Russia and China, both veto-wielding Security Council members with strong commercial ties to Teheran, have consistently been reluctant to support sanctions.
But Volkov said that "the Iranian leadership's refusal to freeze uranium enrichment activities and engage in a constructive dialogue with leading global powers leaves no chance for a quick diplomatic solution of the Iranian nuclear problem."
At the same time, he said Russia would continue efforts to encourage talks between Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana "so that Iran isn't driven into a corner." He also repeated Russia's firm opposition to any decisions that could lead to the use of military force against Iran.
Moscow has been frustrated in its efforts to persuade Teheran to halt enrichment - including by offering to enrich uranium on Russian soil for a peaceful Iranian nuclear program. But Russian officials have repeatedly warned that harsh punishment could make Iran even more recalcitrant and scuttle the chances for a negotiated solution to the crisis.
Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov met Tuesday with the Iranian ambassador to Moscow, Gholamreza Ansari, "to exchange opinions on acute international issues, including the situation in the Middle East," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"The parties spoke for further development of good-neighborly and cooperation ties between Moscow and Teheran," it said.