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. Russia warns against pushing NKorea, Iran 'into a corner'
HANOI, Nov 18 (AFP) Nov 18, 2006
Russia on Saturday warned the international community against pushing Iran and North Korea "into a corner" amid ongoing efforts to halt their nuclear ambitions.

"I think the world community must go very carefully -- firmly but carefully -- on resolving the problem of the Korean peninsula and resolving the Iranian nuclear problem," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

"Because if we can now find a mutually acceptable accord, then this allows us to strengthen the non-proliferation regime," he told reporters at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam.

"But if we push this or that situation into a corner, then the threat of proliferation significantly heightens."

The North Korea crisis has been a key issue at the APEC meeting in Vietnam.

The forum's 21 members worked Saturday to find common ground on how to address Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions this weekend, with the United States predicting a joint statement would be released at the summit's end.

But the Russian foreign minister's comments indicated that the statement would not take the debate any further than the UN Security Council resolution passed last month.

On Friday, the United States chided Russia and China for holding up agreement on a US resolution imposing sanctions on Iran over its controversial nuclear program, urging them to "accelerate the pace" of the talks.

US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns complained that talks at the United Nations over what sanctions to impose on Iran for refusing to freeze its uranium enrichment program had dragged on for three weeks with insufficient progress.

China and Russia, both close economic partners with Iran, argue the measures are too extensive, while Washington has pressed for tougher action.

The United States and others believe Iran's uranium enrichment program is ultimately aimed at producing fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Iran insists it will use the enriched uranium only to fuel nuclear power stations, something it is permitted to do as a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

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