Iran bomb new.
(photo credit: AP)
MOSCOW — Iran's decision to enrich uranium to higher levels has raised new doubts about Teheran's nuclear program and is testing the patience of the global community, Russian officials said Tuesday.
The tough statements appeared to indicate that Russia is increasingly warming up to the US push for a new set of international sanctions against Iran.
"Iran says it doesn't want to have nuclear weapons. But its actions, including its decision to enrich uranium to 20 percent, have raised doubts among other nations, and these doubts are quite well-founded," Nikolai Patrushev, the chief of Russia's Security Council, said in televised remarks.
World powers fear the Iranian nuclear program might be a cover for building atomic weapons. Iran says the program is peaceful and aims to generate power for its growing population.
The US and France said the Iranian announcement that it would enrich uranium to 20 percent
left no choice but to push harder for a fourth set of UN Security Council sanctions, aiming to punish Iran for its defiance on the nuclear issue. Iran announced Tuesday that it had started enrichment under UN supervision.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also criticized the Iranian move, saying that it defied UN Security Council resolutions and would "deepen doubts of the sincerity of Iran's intentions" concerning its nuclear development aspirations.
Patrushev urged Iran to cooperate more actively with the UN nuclear watchdog to assuage international concerns about its enrichment effort. He also warned there are limits to the world's patience regarding Iran's defiance.RELATED:Israel fears 20% enrichment is leap away from military-grade material
"What matters is not whether or not sanctions will be imposed," Patrushev said. "What matters is to settle the process. Political and diplomatic methods are important in the settlement, but everything has its limit and there are limits to patience."
Russia had opposed the US push for new sanctions against Iran, but it has showed signs recently of edging closer to Washington.
Patrushev on Tuesday also pointed out that Israel, in particular, has refused to rule out the use of force against Iran.
"It's very important to avert a war," he said.
Russia has walked a fine line on Iran for years. It is one of the six
powers leading efforts to ensure Iran does not develop an atomic bomb.
But it also has tried to maintain friendly ties with the Islamic
Republic, a regional power close to Russia's vulnerable southern flank.
Russia has been building Iran's first nuclear power plant, whose launch
has been repeatedly delayed and is now scheduled for some unspecified
time this year.