Moscow, Russia (RIA Novosti) Dec 21, 2006
A UN resolution on Iran's nuclear problem could be finalized soon, provided the Iran-6 accords are observed, Russia's foreign minister said Wednesday. Sergei Lavrov said the accords achieved by the Iran-6 (the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany), which are mediating Tehran's controversial nuclear program, called for a solution based solely on diplomatic means and excluding the use of force, whereas the UN should support the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency, not replace it.
"If these principles are followed now, a solution can be agreed to fairly soon," he said, adding that there is a desire among some to punish Iran.
He said Russia regards the intention to impose visa restrictions on Iranian officials as an element of punishment.
"The [UN] draft resolution [on Iran] also attempts to limit areas of activity on which even the IAEA has no complaints. We consider this wrong," Lavrov said.
He said a significant shift was made in drafting the resolution, taking in some of the approaches proposed by Russia.
But he said some of Russia's Iran-6 partners are attempting to take advantage of the situation by seeking to close off channels for "trade and economic relations with Iran in areas that are perfectly legitimate."
Lavrov said that is in conflict with fundamental principles of international law.
"The Security Council must not replace the IAEA, but should help the IAEA facilitate the resolution of these problems," he said.
Lavrov said earlier Wednesday that the ongoing international arms race is pushing some countries to acquire nuclear technology.
He said that prospects for disarmament are unfavorable, saying that the arms race continues despite all efforts to stop it.
"This prods certain countries to strengthen their independence by gaining access to asymmetric responses, including nuclear technology," he said in an apparent reference to Iran and North Korea.
He said such a situation creates additional risks.
"We will endeavor to rectify the situation by diplomatic means," he said.
Following Tehran's refusal to halt its uranium enrichment activities or allow random inspections of its program in exchange for a package of incentives, European powers drew up proposals on sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
However, objections from Russia and China, which are key economic partners of Tehran and who considered the previous draft excessively harsh, prompted the formulation of a revised version of the resolution.
Sanctions against Iran proposed by Britain, France and Germany in the previous draft envisaged a ban on sales of missile and nuclear technologies to the country, the freezing of its military bank accounts, and the imposition of visa restrictions on Iranian officials linked to the nuclear industry.
Under the draft, the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran by Russia would not have been banned, but fuel deliveries to the plant would have been restricted.
Lavrov said previously the new draft of the UN Security Council resolution calls for sanctions against Iran, but that it does not affect the $1 billion Bushehr project.
earlier related report
In a letter to Qatar's UN envoy Nasser Abdulaziz al-Nasser, the president of the Council for December, Iranian Ambassador Javad Zarif cited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's apparent admission last week that Israel possesses nuclear weapons.
"The Israeli regime's clandestine development and possession of nuclear weapons not only violate basic principles of international law, the United Nations Charter, the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and Security Council resolutions, but also clearly defy the demand of the overwhelming majority of UN member states," he said.
"Peace and security cannot be achieved in the Middle East while the massive Israeli nuclear arsenal continues to threaten the region and beyond," he added.
The Iranian envoy urged the 15-member council to "condemn the Israeli regime's clandestine development and possession of nuclear weapons, compel it to abandon nuclear weapons, urged it to accede to the NPT without delay, and demand that this regime place promptly all its nuclear facilities under IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) full-scope safeguards."
"Should the Israeli regime fail to do so, the council must take resolute action under Chapter Seven of the (UN) Charter (meaning sanctions) to ensure compliance," Zarif added.
Olmert's apparent admission breached the Jewish state's decades-long policy of nuclear ambiguity.
Under this policy, Israel, which is believed to have an arsenal of 200 nuclear weapons, would not carry out any nuclear tests and stay silent on the issue in order to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
Olmert's statement threatened to undercut efforts by Israel and the West to prevent Iran from secretly trying to build nuclear arms under the cover of a civilian atomic power program.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Korea Truce Village At Peace
Panmunjom, South Korea (UPI) Dec 20, 2006
Just an hour's drive north of Seoul takes you to the world's most heavily fortified Cold War frontier, where South Korean soldiers face off against North Korean troops. Standing only several paces apart, guards from both sides stare each other down across the military demarcation line that runs through this border village of Panmunjom, where a three-inch-high white stone divider separates the rival Koreas.
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