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Experts Warn Against Iran Sanctions

File photo: Delegates at the Fourth Annual Eurasian Media Forum.
by Harbaksh Singh Nanda
Almaty, Kazakhstan (UPI) Apr 21, 2006
While Washington continues to solicit international support to slap sanctions against a defiant Iranian regime, experts at an international conference in Almaty Thursday suggested that the economic and other embargoes against Tehran may not prove effective.

"We have seen in the past that the economic sanctions against various states have proved to be counter effective," Vyacheslav Kuznetsov, Director of the Institute of Social and Political Research, said at the Fifth Annual Eurasian Media Forum.

Echoing similar views, Dr. Kenneth Courtis of Goldman Sachs said that the former dictator of Iraq was exporting more oil during the sanctions than the total oil being produced in Iraq today. "With Iran's geography and the oil reserves, no sanctions can work against it," Courtis opined at the opening session of the three-day event.

The media forum has attracted nearly 350 journalists, politicians, political commentators and bureaucrats and diplomatic envoys from all over the world to deliberate on various topical issues, including the Iran dilemma.

Richard Holbrooke, a former Clinton ambassador to the United Nations and former assistant secretary of state urged host Kazakhstan to exert political pressure on its two giant neighbors, China and Russia, to help Washington tighten the noose against nuclear aspirant Tehran.

Holbrooke said that Iran's nuclear plans have reached a stage of frenzied political concern in Washington and among the Bush administration. "The concern cannot be overstated," the former ambassador said, adding that he was not speaking for the Bush administration. "Today Iran tops the U.S. agenda. This will be a major issue during the upcoming G-8 summit in St. Petersburg and also during this week's summit between President Bush and visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao," Holbrooke said.

Landlocked Kazakhstan lies between Russia and China and is geographically close to Iran. Any military action against Tehran could seriously affect this former Soviet Republic. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is due to visit Kazakhstan in the next three weeks and Iran is likely to dominate bilateral talks.

Kuznetsov said that Moscow was definitely exerting pressure on Iran "but sometimes the pressures don't work."

But Holbrooke minced no words, saying, "The U.S. is upset at Russia's stance on Iran. I believe that Moscow should support Washington against Tehran."

He hailed Kazakhstan for giving up its nuclear arsenal back in 1994. "If Kazakhstan set such a fine example, Iran wants to go the other way," Holbrooke said.

Answering questions if the Iran issue would split the U.N. Security Council, the former Clinton administration official said that Bush administration has not had a smooth ride with the international body in seeking consensus.

Courtis, however, said that an Iran resolution lies in Moscow and Beijing. "If the U.S. fails to win China's support, the Iran issue will not be resolved," the managing director of Goldman Sachs said.

These comments come at a time when Chinese President Hu Jintao is visiting the United States for bilateral talks with President Bush.

Meanwhile, Russia on Thursday said it would continue supporting construction of a nuclear power plant in Iran, saying it poses no threat to the international non-proliferation regime. Russia's state atomic energy agency is contracted to help Iran build the $1 billion nuclear reactor.

"The construction of a nuclear power plant in Bushehr is being carried out in compliance with all international agreements," Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency head Sergei Kiriyenko told a news conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

In the United States, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday cautioned against assuming that the White House is keen on military intervention in Iran.

Although President Bush has repeatedly said that all options, including the use of force, are possible to stop Iran from producing nuclear warheads, Rice said in Chicago that diplomatic measures must first be exhausted.

Rice said that many "diplomatic tools" will be used and that she hoped Iran would get the message from a unified international community. The U.N. Security Council has given Iran until April 28 to halt uranium enrichment.

The Security Council is so far divided on the Iran issue. While Germany, France and Britain have said they would push for a diplomatic solution, Russia and China have both opposed any sanctions and a military solution.

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, discovered three years ago that Iran had carried out secret nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the non-proliferation treaty.

Iran says it has the right to enrich nuclear energy for civilian purposes, but the West believes Tehran is using the process to secretly and illegally build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge.

Source: United Press International

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