Lavrov: UNSC must not lead Iran talks

Russian foreign minister says UN nuclear watchdog should resolve standoff.

Sergey Lavrov 298.88 ap (photo credit: ap [file])
Sergey Lavrov 298.88 ap
(photo credit: ap [file])
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called Friday for renewed talks with Iran over its nuclear program and said the UN nuclear watchdog, not the Security Council, should lead efforts to resolve the standoff, according to Russian news agencies. Russia will continue "to seek the swift resumption of talks on the Iranian nuclear program, and not the punishment of Iran," ITAR-Tass quoted Lavrov as saying, again emphasizing Moscow's opposition to sanctions against Tehran. Speaking at a news conference in New Delhi after talks with his Indian counterpart, Lavrov said that Moscow's suggested alterations in a European-proposed draft resolution are aimed at ensuring that the path of negotiations is not abandoned, Russian news agencies reported. "Russia introduced amendments in the Security Council on Iran's nuclear program to help the International Atomic Energy Agency renew negotiations," ITAR-Tass quoted Lavrov as saying. He said Moscow does not want potential paths to a resolution to be blocked, the agency reported. Lavrov said that the Security Council must not take over the role of the Vienna, Austria-based IAEA in resolving the mounting dispute over Iran's nuclear program, which the United States and some of its allies believe is aimed at developing atomic weapons. "The Security Council should ... help provide for Iranian cooperation with the IAEA, but not replace this organization in the settlement process," ITAR-Tass and RIA-Novosti quoted Lavrov as saying. Russia, not eager for a vote in the Security Council on sanctions, has repeatedly said the IAEA should play the leading role in efforts to resolve concerns about Iran's nuclear program. After three weeks of talks at the United Nations, the United States and key European countries remain locked in fundamental disagreement with Russia over how to respond to Iran's refusal to rein in its program by halting uranium enrichment. The US and European nations want tough sanctions to punish Iran, but Russia _ which has close trade ties with Iran and is building the nation's first nuclear power plant - says it will agree only to limited measures targeting the nuclear program. Russia and China have been publicly pushing for dialogue instead of UN punishment, despite the collapse last month of a European Union attempt to entice Iran into negotiations. Russian officials joined top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in calling for talks when Larijani visited Moscow last week. The Europeans circulated a draft resolution late last month that would order all countries to ban the supply of materials and technology that could contribute to Iran's nuclear and missile programs. It would also impose a travel ban and asset freeze on companies, individuals and organizations involved in those programs. The draft would exempt the plant being built by Russia at Bushehr, Iran, but not the nuclear fuel needed for the reactor. Russia proposed major changes that would limit sanctions solely to measures that would keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and would eliminate any travel ban, asset freeze, or mention of Bushehr.