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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia unaffected by U.S. sanction law against Iran - expert

RIA Novosti

23:19 16/12/2009 MOSCOW, December 16 (RIA Novosti) - A bill on prohibiting foreign businesses from operating in the U.S. if they are delivering oil byproducts to Iran could be the last attempt to persuade Tehran to soften its position on the country's nuclear program initiatives, a Russian expert said on Wednesday.

The bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday and was sent to the Senate for approval.

Vladimir Sazhin, a senior fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of World Economics and International Relations, said the new law would not affect Russian companies because they do not export oil products to Iran. The law specifically mentions gasoline supplies.

"Our companies don't sell gasoline there," Sazhin said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

The new U.S. law would expand the existing laws to punish foreign companies investing more than $20 billion in the Iranian energy sector.

"According to the existing U.S. law in regard to Iran, businesses are limited to contracts of no more than $20 million, which is undoubtedly little. We (Russia) have some projects in the works there on several oilfields, so we do have some problems there," Sazhin said.

The U.S. in the past has been trying to influence other countries to decrease gasoline deliveries to Iran. During the summer, the U.S. stopped selling gasoline to an Indian company and a British company that were delivering gasoline to Iran, which led to a 40% decrease in Iran's gasoline imports. However, China made up for the difference.

According to another senior fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Yevseyev, the U.S. will continue to hamper gasoline exports to Iran, but China will actually make the decision.

"Even if the West stops gasoline supplies, I don't think that would be critical - everything depends on China, while China is now carefully weighing up and analyzing all options," Yevseyev said.

"China can completely compensate Iran's market demand on gasoline, therefore, if China does not join in, that will be ineffective," he said.

Many experts agree that China has taken a time-out in regard to sanctions against Iran. China does not want a nuclear Iran, but has many economic interests in the country, as it imports some 15% of its oil from Iran.

Iran, which is already under three sets of United Nations sanctions for refusing to halt uranium enrichment, recently announced plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities. Tehran insists it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity, while Western powers suspect it of pursuing an atomic weapons program.

During a UN Security Council meeting last Thursday, the United States, Britain and France warned Iran that they were likely to push for new sanctions early next year if it refused to halt its nuclear program.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany are working together to peacefully resolve international concerns over Iran's nuclear program. During their last meeting on November 20 in Brussels, political directors or deputy foreign ministers from the six powers urged Iran to agree to a UN-backed uranium enrichment scheme.

Iranian state English language Press TV on Wednesday aired pictures of what it said was the successful launch of a Sajjil-2 missile, a high-speed, surface-to-surface missile with a range of about 1,200 miles (1,930 kilometres).

That range places Israel, Iran's sworn enemy, well within reach and could reach as far away as southeastern Europe with greater precision than earlier models.

The country has intensified its domestic missile development in recent years, raising concerns of the US and its allies at a time when they accuse the country of seeking to build a nuclear weapon.

Iran denies it wants to build a bomb, saying its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes, aimed at generating electricity.

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