New Iran resolution doesn't call for harsh sanctions, Russia says

Russian FM says draft encourages countries to be vigilant in dealings with Iran to prevent transfer of nuclear material, but "doesn't foresee any harsh sanctions."

A draft UN resolution on Iran's nuclear program does not call for any harsh sanctions, Russia said, and the Iranian president said new measures would not deter the country's pursuit of nuclear technology. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that the draft encourages countries to be vigilant in their dealings with Iran to prevent the illegal transfer of nuclear material, but "does not foresee any harsh sanctions." He spoke a day after the draft was approved by the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany. These terms "will be enforced until the International Atomic Energy Agency's concerns are resolved," Lavrov said, referring to the UN's nuclear watchdog. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed new sanctions as irrelevant. "From our point of view, the issue is over. The issuance of a new resolution won't have any impact on the behavior of the Iranian nation," Iran's official news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. Iran has condemned as illegal two previous resolutions that ordered a ban on the supply of specified materials and technology that could contribute to Iran's nuclear and missile programs. Those sanctions also imposed an asset freeze on key Iranian companies and individuals named by the United Nations. Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, said the country would continue with its civilian nuclear program. "We have been committed to our obligations and did a lot of things beyond our obligations, but we also insist on our rights," Jalili said from Brussels, Belgium, where he was meeting with members of the European Parliament. "We need 20,000 Megawatts of nuclear electricity and for this we have to build 20 nuclear power plants." The process of uranium enrichment can produce material needed to make an atomic bomb. Iran says it aims to use the technology only for generating power. In November, 18 months of negotiations collapsed after European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana failed to persuade Jalili to suspend Iran's development of its nuclear program. Solana and Jalili had a working dinner late Wednesday in Belgium in their first meeting since the talks collapsed, but they appeared to make little progress. Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for Solana, said the two discussed nuclear issues "without entering in details." "The meeting was designed to keep the channel of communications open," Gallach said, adding that Solana did not see the talks as a negotiating session. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said his government has responded to 70 percent of the IAEA's questions about its nuclear activities and that its ongoing cooperation with the UN would remove the need for further sanctions. The new draft was not publicly released, and details of its content were sketchy. After the text was agreed upon during talks in Berlin on Tuesday, US and European diplomats said it bolstered existing sanctions, notably asset freezes and travel bans on Iranian officials. But they disagreed on whether it contained new measures. In Davos, Switzerland, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said agreement on the draft "showed that we remain united, that we do not want Iran to become a nuclear weapons power, and that we will continue to hold Iran to its international obligations." The US had been pushing for sweeping new sanctions, mirroring unilateral measures it imposed last year on select Iranian banks and elements of Iran's military. But Russia and China, which along with some European nations have significant investments in Iran, had balked. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the draft resolution included "on the one hand, sanctions, new and precise sanctions, and there is encouragement toward dialogue."