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Putin Wraps Up Talks In Beijing --> Putin (left) shakes hands with Chinese President Hu Jintao on March 22 (epa) March 22, 2006 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed today Russia will go forward with a project to build a pipeline to carry Siberian oil to China.

"The Russian Federation and China have made the decision to construct an oil-pipeline system from eastern Siberia to the Pacific coast," he said. "Transneft and CNPC [China National Petroleum Corporation] yesterday [March 21] signed a protocol to research the issue and to construct a branch of the pipeline to the People's Republic of China. I have no doubt that this project will happen, and it will allow us to increase significantly the supply of oil from Russia to China."

Putin was speaking at a Russian-Chinese economic forum today as he wrapped up two days of talks with Chinese leaders in Beijing.

Both Russian and Chinese officials say they expect the pipeline to be completed by the end of 2008. On March 21, Putin announced plans to build a pipeline network carrying Russian natural gas to China.

Putin's talks in Beijing focused on energy and economic ties, but also touched on international issues, including Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today that Russia was unlikely to support in the UN Security Council a U.S.-proposed draft statement on Iran, which he said amounted to an "ultimatum."

Later today, Putin, a judo expert, flew to Shaolin, the town regarded as the birthplace of the martial art of kung fu.

(compiled from agency reports)
What Would Sanctions Mean?

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):
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THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's coverage of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.


An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.