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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Excessive sanctions will not solve the Iranian nuclear problem

RIA Novosti

19:28 23/09/2010

(RIA Novosti) - "We have reached an agreement; it was a very good meeting," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said about the meeting of the foreign ministers of the six world powers that monitor Iran's nuclear program at the EU mission in New York.

Russia, the United States, China, Britain, France and Germany have been trying to force Iran to stop its uranium enrichment program and to engage in a dialogue on nuclear issues with them since 2003.

Western powers suspect Iran of building nuclear weapons under the guise of a nuclear program that Tehran claims is entirely peaceful and focused on power generation.

Iran cut all communications with the six-nation group in 2009 and has not altered its stance even after the UN Security Council adopted tougher sanctions against it on June 9, 2010. Despite this, the six countries' foreign ministers met in New York during the 65th session of the UN General Assembly this week.

It's worth noting that the international community interacts with Iran in a highly complicated manner, and that this six-nation group should not be confused with the UN Security Council. But there is one issue common to both agencies - Moscow's attitude to sanctions against Iran.

On June 9, the Security Council adopted a fourth set of sanctions on Iran purely concerned with elements related to its nuclear program. The sanctions were a compromise between the resolutely anti-Iranian U.S. proposals supported by Europeans and the ideas posited by Russia, China and some other Security Council members. However, many Security Council members remained dissatisfied even with that compromise version of the sanctions.

The Russian delegation then warned the United States and the European Union that balanced UN sanctions should not prompt them to introduce unilateral, much harsher, sanctions against Iran that would be detrimental to the country's economy and its people. What's the point of hammering out agreements in the UN if some countries opt to act unilaterally?

But the United States and the EU did adopt their own sanctions, prohibiting their companies from investing in Iran's oil and gas sector, the key industry generating the country's livelihood.

This has created a complicated and very delicate situation. Analysts say that Russia's warning to the Americans and Europeans could indicate that it will not support the Security Council's next set of sanctions against Iran.

Asked if these sanctions are indeed the last to be adopted by the UN, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said immediately after the six nations' meeting in New York that my question concerned the future while the immediate task is to implement those decisions that have been approved.

This is a logical stance; it is also clear that Moscow is dissatisfied with these "additional" sanctions. Lavrov said in his address at the 65th General Assembly: "There has long been a general consensus about the need to abide by the humanitarian limits of sanctions, and to prevent these measures from adversely affecting either the civilian population or the country's socio-economic development. However, we must express our serious concern over individual countries' persistently taking unilateral forcible measures [...] exceeding the provisions set out in the UN Charter and the decisions made by the Security Council. We believe that this practice must be stopped."

Are we returning to an age of confrontation? No, the times have changed. The fragile but growing cooperation between the key political players - Russia, the United States, the EU and China - is now recognized as having intrinsic value. Moreover, it is just as important as the goal of fostering interaction with Iran over its nuclear program. All the meetings about this problem, including the latest meeting of the six-nation group in New York, signify the sides' attempts to find a delicate balance.

While the world leaders and foreign ministers met in New York for the 65th UN General Assembly, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree prohibiting the delivery of the S-300 air defense missile systems, armored vehicles, combat aircraft, helicopters and warships to Iran, or their transit to Iran across Russia. It also prohibits financial transactions with Iranian partners that are related to Iran's nuclear program and the entry into Russia or transit across Russia of Iranians connected with the country's nuclear program.

This decree was written in strict compliance with the UN Security Council's sanctions of June 9, for which Russia voted and which are currently binding for all countries. Russia's sanctions do not suggest any covert desire to place a strangle-hold on Iranian fishing or oil companies, and in this way they differ dramatically from the separate sets of sanctions adopted by the EU and the United States.

Overall, the general aspiration is to resume the talks between the six-nation group and Iran.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke about this in New York during his meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip Crowley has advocated this too. He said: "A P5 plus one meeting [should] review where we are in terms of trying to encourage Iran to come forward and engage constructively with the international community."

Let's hope the resumption of talks with Iran will eventually lead to a solution to the Iranian nuclear problem.

RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev, from New York

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.



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