Russian envoy: Don't push Iran into a corner

Russian envoy says Moscow doesn't differ with US, Israel on need to stop Teheran, only on way to do it.

Stegniy 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy )
Stegniy 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy )
A nuclear Iran is as much "a nightmare" for Russia as it is for the US and Israel, and Moscow doesn't differ with Washington and Jerusalem on the need to stop Teheran, only on the way to do it, Russian Ambassador to Israel Petr Stegniy said Monday. According to Stegniy, who has served extensively in the Arab world, including as the then-Soviet Union's charge d'affaires in Libya from 1986-1990, during the height of US-Libyan tension, it is counterproductive to push Iran, or similar regimes - such as that of Muammar Gaddafi in the 1980s - into a corner. Stegniy's comments came during a lecture he gave on Russian foreign policy at Hebrew University's Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace. Stegniy remembers talks he had with the Americans while he was posted in Tripoli - a period that witnessed the bombing of a disco in West Berlin that prompted US air raids on Libya, and the Lockerbie bombing - and shared advice with the US at the time about how to get Libya to change its behavior. The best advice, he said, was to "get Gaddafi's name off the front pages, leave him alone with his domestic problem, because he won't be able to stand them." "Regimes like that, Gaddafi and [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, use outside threat as inner consolidation of the society. I am convinced of that," he said. Rather than pushing Iran into a corner, Russia's position, Stegniy said, was designed to keep Iran at the negotiating table, and to keep the Intentional Atomic Energy Agency inside Iran. Stegniy, who said Russia disputed Israel's estimate that Iran could go nuclear as early as the end of next year, said he believed the situation in Iran "is still under control, and will get out of control when the IAEA leaves the country." According to the Russian ambassador, the world's media is using Russia and China as "scapegoats" with regards to Iran. "We will do our utmost to keep Ahmadinejad from having a nuclear weapon. It is the consensus aim. We may differ on the means, but we are united on strategy." Stegniy, who took over as ambassador in the fall, also addressed another issue of contention with Israel: Russia's contacts with Hamas. The rationale behind this contact, which he said was only with Hamas's political wing, was to try and contain the organization, he maintained. Stegniy said that while Moscow appreciated Israel's position of not talking with Hamas, Russia viewed it as part of its "regional responsibility" to speak to rogue states and organizations in an effort to contain them. Again drawing on his experience in Libya, Stegniy drew a parallel between talking to Hamas now, and talking to Gaddafi then. "I took relaxation medicines before I met Gaddafi," he said. "We don't enjoy it, but see it as part of our responsibility. Someone has to speak to rogue states, that is why we are speaking to Hamas."