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Iranian President Ahmadinejad Angers Russia

The Iranian President's statement was diplomatically inappropriate. If he was referring to Russia, he questioned Russia's reliability, if not its integrity, as a business partner. Copyright AFP
by Pyotr Goncharov
UPI Outside View Commentator
Moscow (UPI) Feb 07, 2006
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has dismissed as immaterial the objections of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Russian proposal to enrich Iranian uranium on Russian territory.

The Iranian President's statement was diplomatically inappropriate. If he was referring to Russia, he questioned Russia's reliability, if not its integrity, as a business partner.

"Are you offering us to upgrade uranium abroad, as if you are dealing with a medieval country? If we agree, what are we going to do if one day you fail to get us nuclear fuel?" he said at a rally during his trip to the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is being built by Russian specialists.

Saying "you", Ahmadinejad was addressing the United States, and another negotiator, the European Union Three, comprised of Britain, France and Germany, which can accept as the only option for Iran uranium enrichment with participation of Iranian experts -- not in Iran, but at a joint venture and on the condition that nuclear waste must be retrieved by this venture.

But the matter deals with the Russian proposal to upgrade Iranian nuclear fuel outside Iran as the only remaining option for breaking the deadlock.

This idea currently being reviewed by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the EU3 is Moscow's offer to Tehran to set up a joint venture on Russian territory. Ahmadinejad was bound to know that the Russian proposal was the basis for all recent consultations on the Iranian nuclear program.

"The foes are trying to deprive Iran of its legal rights so as to later on sell it nuclear energy at high prices," he said at the same rally.

Russia also falls under the "foes", at least indirectly. It is Russia who has committed herself to supplying Iran with nuclear fuel if it accepts its proposal on a joint venture. There are no other proposals in the IAEA.

"It is meaningless to cast doubt over Russia's honest proposal to Iran," said Sergei Lavrov.

The Russian Foreign Minister gave a diplomatic reply, which is understandable. He has no doubt that Tehran does not in fact consider Russia its "foe," or the "Small Satan" (as it dubbed the Soviet Union), as distinct from the Big Satan, the United States.

But the phrase "...what are we going to do if one day you fail to get us nuclear fuel?" may apply to Russia as well.

Iran has voiced these apprehensions more than once. But while they were a general statement in the past, now they sound like a verdict pronounced by the president in the context of the Russian proposal.

"Iran will continue following its road, and will not give up its legal right under any circumstances." The Iranian president expressed this position not only for the current emergency meeting of IAEA managing directors in Vienna, but also with a view to March 6 when a new, planned session at the same level will take place to decide on the referral of the Iranian nuclear file to the United Nations Security Council.

What stands behind this? Apparently, Tehran does not want its nuclear programs to be under tough IAEA control. A recent Five-Plus-One group joint resolution (adopted by Russia, the United States, China, Britain and France as Security Council permanent members, and Germany as part of the EU3 at the talks with Iran) instructs the IAEA to report to the Security Council in detail about checkups of Iranian nuclear facilities. In effect, it does not leave Iran any freedom of maneuver. Iran can only avoid the referral of its nuclear file to the Security Council, if it goes for close cooperation with the IAEA, which is strongly recommended by Moscow and Beijing.

Obviously, Tehran does not like the idea, and it is trying to break the rigid framework of the resolution. A recently published statement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry sounds like an ultimatum: If the Iranian file is sent to the U.N. Security Council, Iran will stop its cooperation with the IAEA.

"In conditions when the Islamic Republic of Iran allows the IAEA to control its entire nuclear activities of its own free will, certain countries are trying to stop this process by reporting the problem to the Security Council, and compelling the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to stop such voluntary cooperation in compliance with a resolution by the Majlis of the Iranian Council," reads the statement.

Tehran has never gone this far before.

Pyotr Goncharov is a political commentator for the RIA Novosti news agency. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.

Source: United Press International

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