Russia, U.S. spar over Iran's nuclear, missile trade

Date: 11-13-06

By Evelyn Leopold and Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia's proposals for restrictions on materials that could help Iran's nuclear programs are far less comprehensive than Western nations would like, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said on Monday.

He spoke to reporters after another meeting of Germany and the five permanent U.N. Security Council powers with veto rights on a European draft resolution imposing sanctions on Iran and Russia's amendments that chop the text in half.

At issue in Monday's talks were two lists of dangerous nuclear and missile components -- one drawn up by the Missile Technology Control Regime and the other by Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Europeans and the United States want the components on the lists barred to Iran, whose programs they fear are a cover for bomb-making but which Iran says are for electricity needs.

"The European text uses the entirety of both of those documents, with a sanctions committee mechanism to make decisions in cases of potential transactions that would not further the Iranian nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program," Bolton said.

"The proposed Russian changes today would cut back substantially from the scope" of the lists, Bolton said, adding that experts on all sides would now have to review Moscow's proposals.

But Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin was more optimistic. "Some of the technical concerns which were expressed about the kind of proliferation risks our approach would entail, I think were dispelled by some explanations which we gave today," he said.

The proposed sanctions seek to punish Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, as demanded in an August 31 Security Council resolution. Iran has to clarify questions of its research linking uranium ore processing, high-explosive tests and missile warhead designs.

Several weeks of talks have so far failed to bridge differences between Russia and the West.

The European draft, drawn up by Britain, France and Germany, demands nations prevent the sale or supply of any equipment, technology or financing that would contribute to Iran's nuclear or ballistic missile programs.

Russia wants sanctions to focus only on "enrichment-related and reprocessing activities," heavy-water reactors and the development of "nuclear weapon delivery systems." And Moscow's amendments delete European demands for a freeze of assets abroad and travel bans against individuals, businesses and groups connected with Tehran's nuclear program.

The European draft exempts from sanctions Russia's construction of a reactor in the Iranian Gulf port of Bushehr, but not the delivery of nuclear fuel to the plant which costs about $800 million and is due to go into operation next year.

Russia's amendments crossed out all mention of Bushehr. Churkin has argued the plant is legal and does not contribute to proliferation.


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