RFE/RL: To what extent are the non-permanent members of the Security Council involved in the draft preparation?
Andrei Denisov: They are involved to the fullest extent. The full Council is discussing it. There will be meetings [March 16] and likely [March 17].
RFE/RL: Some of the non-permanent members were not happy initially being excluded from the negotiations. Any changes?
Denisov: Well, first, the situation changed entirely and, second, there was hardly such a situation. The subject is quite sensitive by itself. It affects many countries, so the interest in the subject within the Security Council is totally logical. The issue is not that the negotiations were conducted in some kind of a cell format, in this case the cell being the P-5 [the five permanent members of the Security Council], but it so happened that historically a group of member states evolved which was actively working in this direction. This group consists not of five but of six members -- the sixth being Germany. The European group is represented by these three [Britain, France, and Germany], which were actively involved for almost the last three years in direct negotiations with the Iranians.
RFE/RL: In the last week, how often did you meet with Chinese UN Ambassador Wang Guangya?
Denisov: I cannot answer this question, not because I am trying to keep something secret but because it is impossible to answer. We are interacting with all ambassadors, including the Chinese, many times every day during consultations, negotiations. If you want a direct answer -- we did not have [just] a single meeting.
RFE/RL: It is well known that the Chinese and Russian positions regarding the standoff with Iran are very similar. Are there any differences?
Denisov addressing the Security Council on March 14 (epa)
Honestly, I don’t know of any such differences. I’m not aware of details in the Chinese position that Russia would disagree with. It is just so that all cards are on the table. There aren’t any conspiracy theories. Things are pretty much clear-cut. China and Russia are guided by the presumption that the aim of the Security Council in its response to the development of Iran’s nuclear program is to strengthen and to support the work of the IAEA [the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency], a body created by the UN specifically to monitor compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
RFE/RL: Under which circumstances would Russia consider including in the text a threat of sanctions against Iran?
Denisov: Under no circumstances. From the very beginning -- and it’s not only us but also our European partners, for instance -- we are firmly against even the discussion of this subject. It is so sensitive that it cannot be a subject to some kind of abstract reasoning. This is a totally different situation and it excludes the possibility for reasoning until there are reasons. Now there are no reasons to even talk about it.
RFE/RL: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said about a week ago that he had a sense of deja vu looking now at the proceedings in the Security Council toward Iran. He was referring to the events leading to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Do you have a sense of deja vu?
Denisov: No, I don’t. It is strictly personal. [Lavrov] was for 10 years Russia’s permanent representative to the UN and he expressed, as I understand it, his personal impressions. At that time, I was not working here, was not involved in these matters and, personally speaking, I cannot talk about any such feeling. In a more general sense, I would say that there is a certain procedure in the Security Council. There are, I would say, some invisible mechanisms, and a visible logical order in the proceedings of certain matters. So, the deja vu situation could happen from time to time, there’s nothing strange about it.
RFE/RL: Any thoughts on the time frame, how long it will take until there is a resolution on Iran in the Security Council?
Denisov: Well, let’s start [by saying] that we aren’t even discussing a resolution -- we are talking about a statement. This is an official Security Council document, and it has approximately the same legal weight as a resolution. Time will tell, we’ll see. In any case this is not something that we have to rush, speeding it up and downgrading it is something no one’s interested in doing.
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.