Russia to push for Iran solution

Exclusive: Ex-PM Primakov warns that a strike would lead to wave of extremism.

iran nuclear workers 298 (photo credit: AP)
iran nuclear workers 298
(photo credit: AP)
"Russia will do its utmost to prevent the further escalation of tension in the Iranian nuclear crisis," Yevgeny Primakov, former Russian prime minister and foreign minister, said over the weekend in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post. On a short visit to Israel and other countries in the Middle East, Primakov added that he believed a deal on Iranian uranium enrichment on Russian soil might still be salvageable, despite Teheran's refusal to accept it until now. "An air strike on Iran would most certainly bring about very serious consequences in the whole region. It might cause a huge wave of extremism in the Arab world, and the Arab regimes might find it very difficult to survive in this situation," Primakov said. "Therefore, Russia is determined to make all diplomatic efforts possible to prevent these developments, but also to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We consider it a very negative and dangerous scenario. Russia is not at all interested in Iran obtaining nuclear arms. "The problem is that as of today, despite a few anomalies, Teheran has not violated the non-proliferation agreement and therefore harsh measures cannot be implemented against it," he said. Primakov, who was foreign minister and then prime minister in the late 90s, after heading the Foreign Intelligence Service from 1991-1996, said he believed the Russian deal, whereby Iran's uranium enrichment would take place on Russian territory, might still be workable. "This year, Russia will serve as a temporary president of the G-8, and it is very possible that the amended offer will again be discussed during the coming G-8 summit," he said. "The idea is that the countries interested in uranium enrichment for peaceful means would turn to well-established members of the nuclear club for that purpose, instead of pursuing that process themselves. This way, the uranium will be available to Iran and other countries, and Iran will be one of many. This will allow Iran to comply with the offer without losing face," he said. However, it was still unclear how the Iranians would react to such a deal if it was offered to them, Primakov said. Primakov will also visit Jordan and may meet in Ramallah with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas if Abbas returns from abroad in time. Primakov was invited to visit here by the Israel Manufacturers Association, and is due to meet with its leadership, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and a group of senior political analysts. Referring to Russian-Israeli relations, he said that "the full potential of these relations has not yet been fulfilled, due to the lack of trust between the parties. There is an opportunity for much more significant cooperation, both in the political and economic spheres. It's important to understand that Russia plays a major role in Middle Eastern diplomacy, and I doubt that the conflict can be resolved without Russia's involvement. "It's important to understand that unlike during the era of the Cold War, these days we stand in the Middle East with both of our feet - in Israel and in the Arab world - and we can contribute a great deal," Primakov said.