Russia doesn't want Iran punished in nuclear stand-off: Lavrov

Date: 11-17-06

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Russia does not want to see the UN Security Council punish Iran over its refusal to freeze sensitive nuclear work, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said.

Speaking at the start of a visit to New Delhi, Lavrov also said that Moscow wanted to see the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) take the lead role in resolving the crisis.

"The role of the Security Council is precisely to help and not to replace the IAEA in the process," Lavrov told reporters.

He added that "the good offices of the Security Council will be in the business of helping attaining that goal rather than punishing Iran."

"We have been trying to help with the IAEA efforts to bring the matter to the negotiating table rather than block the pathways to the possibility of pursuing those talks," Lavrov said.

Russia and China -- which have extensive trade and energy links with Iran -- are resisting a European-proposed draft Security Council resolution providing for targeted sanctions against Iran.

Tehran, which insists that its nuclear program is peaceful, has rejected UN demands that it halt uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for electricity generation but can also be used to produce the raw material for a nuclear warhead.

An IAEA report on Tuesday said it was investigating traces of plutonium, a potential weapons material, found in containers at a waste storage site at Karaj, in Iran.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said he had discussed Tehran's nuclear programme with Lavrov and with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki on Thursday. Mottaki is also on a visit to New Delhi.

Mukherjee said India believes that "Iran has the right to pursue its nuclear programme for peaceful civilian use".

But he also stressed that "as a signatory to the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) it has certain obligations to carry conviction with the international community and IAEA that it is being pursued for peaceful purposes."

"We also shared our views with the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov that all possible means to resolve the issue through dialogue be should be attempted," the Indian foreign minister added.

"Coercion and application of force is not the answer to resolve the issues," Mukherjee told reporters.

India, which is in the process of concluding a civilian nuclear energy deal with the United States, has twice voted at the IAEA in favour of censuring Iran for its nuclear programme.

India's support for the IAEA resolutions soured its ties with Iran but relations were put back on an even keel with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh telephoning Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in September "to settle the differences", Indian media reported.

The conversation followed a visit by Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari to New Delhi on August 29.


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