Russia has ruled out the use of force against Iran if President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime rejects proposals that it end its nuclear enrichment program.
However, the United States has refused to rule out military action, saying all options are open, setting the stage for a potential collapse of the international community's united front should Iran reject the proposals hammered out by the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (the P5+1), last week in Vienna.
"I can unambiguously say that all agreements" of the meeting "rule out the use of military action," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Novosti News Agency. On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated his country's position was "well known: we are against the use of force under any circumstances."
In an interview published on Monday, Lavrov told Moscow's Nezavisimaya Gazeta the use of force against Iran had not been discussed by the foreign ministers in Vienna. "Moreover, I can say that the understandings reached by the six nations rule out the use of force in any case."
A spokesman for Britain's Foreign Office confirmed Lavrov's assertion that the military option was not discussed in Vienna by the P5+1, telling The Jerusalem Post that Britain was "committed to a diplomatic solution."
Following a meeting of foreign ministers in New York on May 8, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett declined to speculate on the military option. "It is not anybody's intention to take the course of military action, and that I think is simple and straight forward and clear," she said.
However, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, last week told Fox News military intervention remained an option. "The president's made it very clear he wants to resolve the Iranian nuclear weapons program through peaceful and diplomatic means, but he's also said that Iran with nuclear weapons is unacceptable," he said.
Asked if a military response had been ruled out if Iran failed to halt its nuclear weapons program, Bolton said, "No option is taken off the table."
On Friday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was optimistic a diplomatic solution could be found. Speaking to reporters after a meeting in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah G l, Steinmeier said, "We are hopeful that Iran will study the proposals very carefully and with a sense of responsibility and that a positive response will emerge."
"I think the US decision will be influential in Iran's evaluation. That is why we are optimistic," he told Deutsche Welle.
Turkey has served as a go-between with the US, Russia, Germany and Iran, the Turkish newspaper Zaman reports, with G l speaking with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before and after the Vienna meeting and receiving a detailed briefing from Steinmeier in Ankara on Friday.
Ankara has warned Teheran not to rebuff the P5+1 proposals. "Do not say 'no' immediately, take advantage of the opportunity in the best way," G l told his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki after speaking with Rice and Steinmeier.
"Iran and the West use different rhetoric in their statements and approaches. The US, with its opening, gives the appearance that it is doing all it can for Iran. This opportunity should not be missed. However, if no solution is reached after this opening, the US may resort to different methods with the UN Security Council.