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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (right) with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a joint press conference in Washington, D.C. today (epa)
March 7, 2006 -- The United States told Iran today that enrichment of nuclear fuel on Iranian territory was unacceptable as Russia closed ranks with the Bush administration.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered the message – but did not warn of immediate UN sanctions -- after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"I think the United States has been very clear that [uranium] enrichment and reprocessing on Iranian soil is not acceptable because of the [nuclear] proliferation risk," Rice said.
For his part, Lavrov said Russia's negotiations with Iran have centered on trying to persuade Iran to comply with the demands of the UN nuclear watchdog agency.
Russia had proposed and talked to the Iranians about shifting uranium enrichment to Russia where it could be monitored by Russia to guard against weapons use.
At a joint State Department news conference with Rice, Lavrov said Russia made no "compromise" on its proposal.
Rice and Lavrov will now have a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush.
Rice said at the press conference that there is still time for Iran to change its ways.
(Reuters, AP, AFP)
Economic sanctions could further undermine Iran's already shaky economy (Fars)
MOVING TOWARD SANCTIONS: If the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran, domestic support for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad will wane, according to ALEX VATANKA, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group.
Vatanka told a February 24 RFE/RL briefing that "economic sanctions will hurt the average Iranian" and, consequently, many "will blame the ruling clerics" for making life difficult and "impairing the country's long term development."
Vatanka said sanctions would be a serious challenge to the Iranian government. If harsh economic sanctions were imposed, Iran's poorest population will be hurt the hardest -- and might react "as they did in the 1970s and protest in the streets." Sanctions on travel, Vatanka said, would hurt a many Iranians because "Iran is a nation of small traders" who depend on the ability to travel to earn an income. According to Vatanka, unemployment in Iran is estimated at 30 percent, "so small trading is essential to survival." Although current U.S. sanctions "haven't worked," he said, "Iranians fear an oil embargo." He stressed that "oil revenues are a major part of the economy, so it is critical to look at this sector."
Should negotiations with the European Union and the UN fail, Vatanka believes that Iran would follow a "North Korea model," since Ahmadinejad's base of support among the "Islamist militias" has been "urging withdrawal from the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]." The Iranian government's "tactic" so far, Vatanka said, is governed by the belief that "by shouting the loudest, you'll get concessions [from the West]."
Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 60 minutes):
THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's coverage of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
CHRONOLOGY An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.