"Don't use force against Iran" Russian FM warns

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned against the use of force in Iran. He's also opposing unilateral sanctions to punish Tehran for continuing with its nuclear programme. Lavrov said Russia will follow the non-proliferation agreement in all

Mr Lavrov was speaking in Moscow following talks with the French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner.

“I’m absolutely convinced that any solution we would reach must be based on international law. It will help to make this solution sustainable and to avoid unpleasant implications,” Sergey Lavrov stated.

Over the weekend, Mr Kouchner caused some controversy by saying the international community must be prepared for the possibility of war, if Iran obtains atomic weapons.

“Everything must be done to avoid war. We need to constantly negotiate. We need to consider harsh sanctions against Iran, which are necessary to show how serious we are about this issue,” Mr Kouchner stressed. 

At the same time, Iran's nuclear programme is dominating the agenda at the International Atomic Energy Agency's annual conference in Vienna.

Russia's Atomic Energy Agency Chief, Sergey Kirienko, addressed the body on Tuesday. Touching upon a range of issues, he paid particular attention to the project for creating  IAEA-controlled international centres for nuclear enrichment. The idea behind the plan is  a reliable and efficient supply of nuclear fuel to third parties. The main goal is to discourage new nations from going along the nuclear route and coming up with their own nuclear projects, which may add to further complications of the situation around Iran. 

Iran says its nuclear programme is  
             for peaceful purposes
Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes

The first centre has already been set up in the Russian city of Angarsk in Eastern Siberia. The centre has submitted itself to IAEA inspection to make sure its activities comply with the originally announced plans.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to face a significant amount of pressure from the other members of the UN Security Council and particularly the United States, which wants a broader spectrum of sanctions against Iran.

Russia and China, however, insist that the only way forward is diplomacy and that it has not been exhausted yet.

Tehran, for its part,has been repeteadly saying its nuclear activity is for peaceful purposes. 

For several years now, Russia has been constructing the Bushehr nuclear plant in southern Iran. Earlier in the year, there was an indication by Sergey Kirienko that Iran was hundreds of millions dollars behind in its payments for the construction.  

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is insisting that the Bushehr plant will be completed on time by November 2007. He has also said that Russia is on the verge of shipping enriched uranium to Iran for use in its reactors. The information, though, has not been confirmed by the Russian side.

There’s a suggestion that the delay in Russia’s completing the plant may be politically motivated.