Russia and China refuse to discuss possible new sanctions against Iran until the UN nuclear agency reports on Tehran’s answers to a series of questions about its past nuclear work at the end of the year, France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said. Kouchner said France, the United States and Britain are trying to persuade the Russians and Chinese not to wait to consider a new UN Security Council resolution that would toughen sanctions on Iran for defying council demands to give up its Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) right and suspend uranium enrichment.
But he said he did not think the council would be able to take up a new sanctions resolution until after December, when the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report is due.
“I think that it would be very difficult to convince the Russians and the Chinese before,” Kouchner told reporters at a breakfast meeting. “We’ll do our best to convince them, but honestly, the position was difficult to tackle.”
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov refused to comment on Kouchner’s assessment but told reporters Thursday night that Moscow wants to see the IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program.
“I think it’s a very important moment in the entire process and we want to get this information, professional assessment by the inspectors,” Lavrov said.
He insisted that the Security Council track isn’t blocked by China, Russia or anyone else.
But he told reporters that any council measures must be proportionate “and commensurate with what Iran is actually doing, and as long as Iran is doing something which satisfies part of the demands of the Security Council, I believe we have to caliber our action in the Security Council and elsewhere.”
Lavrov’s comments to ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti earlier Thursday were stronger.
“Interference by means of any sanctions would undermine the International Atomic Energy Agency’s efforts,” Lavrov was quoted as saying. “The UN Security Council measures on Iran should be balanced and respond to the steps taken by Tehran itself that obliged to answer all questions.”
Lavrov and other diplomats said he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice exchanged sharp words over new sanctions Wednesday at a German-hosted luncheon of foreign ministers from the Group of 8 industrialized nations.
Lavrov said he was adamant for letting the IAEA deal with Iran.
He said the United States wants to ignore the IAEA but “we want to rely on IAEA expertise.”
Ministers from the six key parties involved in negotiations with Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the United States, were scheduled to meet on Friday to continue their discussions.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei and Iranian officials agreed in July that Tehran would answer questions from agency experts by December on more than two decades of nuclear activity.
IAEA technical officials returned to Tehran this week to start probing outstanding questions.
Two rounds of council sanctions have failed to persuade Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. Tehran insists the program is aimed at producing energy for civilian use but the US and its European allies allege the program’s real aim is to produce nuclear weapons. West does not have any corroborative evidence to substantiate its claims.