We won't support 'excessive' Iran sanctions: Russian FM

In a wide-ranging speech to Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has ruled out supporting 'excessive' sanctions against Iran at the UN Security Council.

A vote on sanctions could be held as early as next week, after  Tehran failed to stop enriching uranium by the February 21 deadline. 

“As for the work of the Security Council on the resolution, we have removed the strictest suggestions including a ban on Iranian officials to travel abroad and the prohibition of loans […] We did this because we had previously agreed to influence Iran gradually in accordance with the real situation. We are not going to support excessive sanctions,” the Russian Foreign Minister stated.

In addition, South Africa opposed amendments to the new package of proposals concerning sanctions against Iran, with its representatives saying they do not want anything to put forward that would be too hasty. So, there is a need to use diplomacy and to have patience in dealing with Iran which seems to be most important under present circumstances.

Under questioning from Duma deputies, Mr Lavrov said that Iran's Bushehr power plant, being built by Russia in Iran, is being scrutinised by the International Atomic Energy Agency which, he says, is a very good sign of non-proliferation.

Answering the question about The New York Times, leading American newspaper which claims Russia's warned Iran it will withhold nuclear fuel from the nearly completed Bushehr power plant if Iran fails to suspend enriching uranium as demanded by the UN Security Council, Sergey Lavrov said the newspaper played a dirty trick.

“There is no link between Iran's uranium enrichment programme and the Bushehr nuclear power plant. I have read the article in the New York Times. It alleges we have told them this. This is a dirty trick. It means somebody wants to put Russia in a bad light,” stressed the Russian Foreign Minister.

Furthermore, Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the State Duma Committee for International Relations, confirmed the Foreign Minister's comments that there is no link between the Bushehr project and the UN sanctions against Iran's nuclear programme.

“I am absolutely sure that Russia, Iran and the international community are equally interested in making success in the Bushehr project, because it proves for everybody, including the authorities in Iran, that there may be positive, constructive co-operation in the field of nuclear industry between Iran and foreign countries, in this case Russia. I do believe that we have to do our utmost in order to reach a compromise in finding an agreement on Bushehr's nearest future; in order to complete this project as soon as possible. As for discussions of the nuclear programme of Iran – yes, we still have questions towards Iran; yes, we do not receive the answers which we may be satisfied with. That is why we demand from Iran to start co-operating with the international community by freezing its nuclear programme and trying to reach an agreement with the international community on some enrichment facilities outside the Iranian territory,” said Mr Kosachev.

“Iran may reach an acceptable solution for its nuclear programme by developing cooperation with the International community. To have just its own national nuclear problem is not a proper solution for Iran itself. The sooner Iran understands it the better it will be for the whole situation,” added Mr Kosachev.

Moreover, Russia has accused the United States of using Cold-War methods to persuade Europe to host an anti-defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. Moscow says it is a threat to Russia’s national security.

Sergey Lavrov's statements have already caused a response in Washington. The U.S. officials said they do not understand the comments. They added the USA wants to cooperate with Moscow on the defense-shield plan.

In his speech, Sergey Lavrov also called for the Commonwealth of Independent States, which includes 12 former Soviet countries, to be reformed gradually.

“The alliance has discussed three options of development and reform. The first one in accordance with the EU example, the second in accordance with the example of the G8, and the third one talked about evolutionary perfection of the existing structure without a sudden destruction of what has been constructed while preserving the positive experience. Considering the real opportunities, the last option seems to be the preferred one,” he stated.