sergev Lavrov 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday warned against the use of force in Iran and against unilateral sanctions to punish Tehran for its nuclear program.
"We are convinced that no modern problem has a military solution, and that applies to the Iranian nuclear program as well," Lavrov said after talks with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
"We are seriously concerned about increasingly frequent reports that military action against Iran is being seriously considered," Lavrov said.
Kouchner, who is on his first trip to Moscow as foreign minister, made waves over the weekend by saying the international community must be prepared for the possibility of war in the event that Iran obtains atomic weapons.
Kouchner also had said that European leaders were considering their own economic sanctions against Iran over its refusal to forgo parts of its nuclear program, indicating that penalties imposed by the UN Security Council have not been effective.
Lavrov criticized the idea of unilateral sanctions by the EU or the United States.
"If we agreed to work collectively, and that is represented in collective decisions made by the UN Security Council, then what purpose would unilateral sanctions have?" he said.
Kouchner said negotiations were necessary to avert the possibility of war, and suggested the world should not shy away from sanctions to pressure Iran over its nuclear program.
"The worst thing to happen would be a war, and in order to avoid it, we need to continue talks, and be firm enough regarding sanctions," Kouchner said.
"We have to work on precise sanctions that would demonstrate the world community's serious approach to this problem," he said.
But Lavrov signaled Moscow's opposition to a third round of UN sanctions, praising an agreement the International Atomic Energy Agency reached with Iran aimed at resolving outstanding issues.
"We continue to adhere to that agreement and believe that the Security Council should not take action outside the framework of support for the IAEA," Lavrov said.
The United States, its European allies and other world powers suspect Iranian authorities of seeking nuclear weapons, though Tehran insists its atomic activities are aimed only at producing energy.
Negotiations and two sets of Security Council sanctions have failed to persuade Iran to stop its program for uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear power plants as well as material used in atomic weapons.
Kouchner called Sunday for "more effective sanctions" against Iran if it continues to resist the demand.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is seen as taking a somewhat tougher line on Iran than his predecessor Jacques Chirac had, and is also seen as more friendly to the United States.
Russia, which has close ties to Iran and is building its first nuclear power plant, has repeatedly warned that overly harsh punishment for Iran could be counterproductive. Along with China, it has forced the US and other Security Council members to water down sanctions.
Russia has expressed frustration with Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, but has repeatedly warned that military action would be a disaster.
"Bombing Iran would be a wrong step leading to catastrophic consequences," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said in an interview published Tuesday in the daily Vremya Novostei.
Losyukov said Iran should "act more openly, demonstrate more goodwill" in order to assuage Western concerns, but he suggested Russia has little power to sway Tehran.
"We can only express our opinion. Iran has its own considerations from which it proceeds from," he said.