Moscow (RIA Novosti) Feb 21, 2007
The Russian foreign minister said Wednesday U.S.-led multinational foreign forces in Iraq must not conduct military operations outside the country, including against Iran. "The multinational force in Iraq should abide strictly by the UN Security Council's mandate, which does not provide for any operations outside the country," Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with weekly Lebanese magazine Al-Watan Al-Arabi.
The long-standing confrontation between the U.S. and Iran deteriorated further January 11 when American servicemen burst into Iran's mission in Erbil (Kurdistan) and detained five officials. American troops disarmed guards and confiscated computers and documents without providing any explanation.
Earlier this month the United States accused Iran of backing the insurgency and unrest in Iraq, and suspects the Islamic Republic of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program.
"The escalation of the conflict and its possible spread beyond the Iraqi borders will inevitably result in catastrophic consequences and not for the Middle East alone," Lavrov said adding "I believe Washington understands this."
The minister said a coordinated and well thought-out timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq will help to stabilize the situation in the country.
"But at the same time we believe that U.S. Army detachments and their coalition allies should not leave Iraq tomorrow," Lavrov said.
He said the timetable for the withdrawal of forces should be measured and gradual, while responsibility for security in the country should be simultaneously handed over to the Iraqis. Lavrov added that in order to do so, the Iraqi police, law enforcement bodies and the Army had to be reinforced.
Following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraq quickly sank into sectarian violence from which it has yet to emerge.
All ongoing international efforts to restore peace and stability there have so far proved futile, and Russia, which has always opposed the war in Iraq, has repeatedly called on the international community to withdraw foreign troops from the country.
earlier related report
"I don't see Americans as having the political will to attempt some sort of military action against Iran. I have a feeling that a military resolution of the Iranian nuclear problem is unlikely," Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the International Affairs Committee of parliament's upper house, told RIA Novosti.
Iran has been under international pressure since it resumed uranium enrichment in January 2006, which some Western countries suspect is part of a covert nuclear weapons program. Tehran says it needs nuclear power for energy.
Margelov headed a Federation Council delegation during a visit to Tehran February 19-21.
According to the senator, during his last trip to Washington in February, he saw for himself that the U.S. political elite is split regarding Iran.
He added that the reinforcement of U.S. military might in the Gulf region should be understood "as part of the national American mood to increase its presence in the region, including to put political pressure on Iran."
"Any forceful American action against Iran would mean the premature political death of U.S. President Bush," Margelov said, adding that the U.S. Congress would not approve a new war.
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution in December imposing sanctions against Iran.
Russia, a key economic partner of Iran, has consistently supported the Islamic Republic's right to nuclear power under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and has resisted the imposition of harsh sanctions.
Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Bushehr in southern Iran, a project worth $1 billion, on a contract signed in 1995.
New resolution on Iran nuclear program looms at UN
But some privately acknowledge that a new resolution tightening sanctions imposed in December appears inevitable.
A US diplomat told reporters there was no draft text pre-negotiated between the United States and its European allies ready to be circulated among council members as soon as the IAEA report is out. Asked if that might be the case, the diplomat, speaking privately issued a categorical "No."
"I don't think a decision's been made as to what the next step is. Clearly, options are before us, so we'll be discussing them," he added.
The Security Council was due to hold Friday public debate on the general issue of non-proliferation in which Iran could be brought up but the meeting is not specifically on the Iranian case.
The United States and many western countries believe Tehran is using its nuclear energy program to secretly develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies this, saying it is only pursuing nuclear energy.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Wednesday his country would continue its contentious nuclear drive at rapid speed, defying the latest UN deadline for Tehran to suspend sensitive atomic activities.
The deadline was set by the UN Security Council on December 23 when it imposed sanctions and gave the UN nuclear watchdog 60 days to report on whether Iran has imposed a "full and sustained suspension" of uranium enrichment.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei is due to report to the council by Friday and is widely expected to confirm that Iran is pushing ahead with enrichment, a process the West fears could be used to make nuclear weapons.
It is not clear what further penalties Iran could face for failing to obey the deadline, although the United States has threatened to crank up the hitherto relatively limited sanctions.
"We continue to see a lot of statements made from the Iranian side. What we have not seen, and what is the thing that would be important to see, is an actual move to comply with the requirements of UN Security Council resolutions and their other international obligations," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said in Washington.
"We have got a good offer on the table. It's one that could provide for the stated goal of the Iranians, which is a civilian nuclear power program. But that of course would also ensure that they could not use it for the cover of building a nuclear weapon," he said.
"Unfortunately, the Iranian government has chosen to spurn that offer and has continued to march down this other path. ... Unfortunately, I think it is pretty clear to everyone at this point that Iran has not made any move to comply," Casey added.
In Moscow, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said a tougher UN resolution should be drafted on Iran in a bid to halt its uranium enrichment program in line with international demands.
Source: RIA Novosti
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Seoul (UPI) Feb 21, 2007
As delegates prepare for the March round of negotiations to end North Korea's nuclear program, how Pyongyang will actually go about dismantling its nuclear arsenal remain unclear. The United States, Russia, China, South Korea, and Japan are determined that North Korea must report all of its nuclear weapons programs, including suspected programs with highly-enriched uranium and dismantle all of them. But North Korea largely remains in denial of the very existence of any uranium program.
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