Friday, March 19, 2010

Russia moves toward backing sanctions against Iran

Just when it seemed that international efforts to convince Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program were failing comes word that Russia was dissatisfied with Tehran's level of cooperation and might be willing to support sanctions in the future. Speaking to the press following a meeting between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just outside Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country did not rule out the possibility that sanctions could be necessary to convince Iran to stop trying to develop nuclear weaponry, according to the Reuters international news service. Lavrov said reports from the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency indicated that Iran did not appear to be close to developing such weapons at this time. "The reports that the IAEA director-general publishes on a regular basis contain very precise assessments that do not give reason for any sort of alarm," Lavrov said. "But that does not mean that we are satisfied with Iranian actions. What we see is that they are letting the opportunity to establish normal, systematic, mutually beneficial dialogue with the international community slip away." U.S. officials have been trying to convince the UN Security Council to agree to impose severe international sanctions on Iran's Islamic government, with which it has exchanged threatening dialogue over the past few years. Iran has threatened to attack Israel, a close U.S. ally, and has been involved in sharp public exchanges with both countries over the years since the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. But both Russia and China will have to agree before the Security Council can impose new sanctions on Iran. "As President Medvedev has said, sanctions rarely work, but situations can arise when they are unavoidable, and we do not rule out that such a situation may arise in relation to Iran," Lavrov said, according to a Reuters report citing the Interfax news agency.

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