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Russia Works On Resumption Of Six-Party Iran Talks

Larijani (left) and Lavrov in Moscow on November 10 (ITAR-TASS) PRAGUE, November 11, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Russia says it wants to restart talks between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said following a meeting on November 11 in Moscow between President Vladimir Putin and Iran's top nuclear negotiator.

Russia says Iran might be willing to return to negotiations though there seems to be no radical changes in the Iranian position.

Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, held talks in Moscow with Putin and Lavrov.

The Interfax news agency reported that Larijani's discussion with Lavrov lasted about five hours.

"There is an agreement that our contacts will be continued and, of course, we will work on achieving our common goal, the resumption of six-party talks, Lavrov told reporters after the meeting. "In the near future we will continue having contacts with the members of the six-party talks, who have offered Iran some ideas as the basis for resumption of the talks and Iran has responded to it."

Iran Continues Enrichment Work

Meanwhile, in Tehran, Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said Iran was ready to consider a proposal to enrich uranium in Russia but he said Tehran would not stop similar work inside Iran. "Iran seeks to preserve its rights to nuclear technology on its soil but it does not contradict joint work with others in other areas," he said.

Mottaki added that "Iran will not accept anything beyond the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] charter and the NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] concerning its heavy-water plant or its other activities."

Today, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad criticized the UN Security Council over its efforts to impose sanctions on Iran. Ahmadinejad said the UN is applying a double standard, saying that it was pursuing Iran, "while those countries, armed with nuclear weapons, deny the rights of other countries to produce nuclear fuel and exploit it for peaceful purposes."

International Divisions Unresolved

The five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany will resume attempts on November 13 to agree on how to censure Iran.

The tough proposed sanctions, which include travel bans and financial restrictions on Iranian scientists working on the nuclear and missile programs, have been the subject of several exploratory meetings among the six envoys, but nothing has been decided because of Russian objections.

Russia and China, which both have significant energy and trade ties with Tehran, view the European draft as too tough. Russia has offered amendments that would reduce the scope of the sanctions proposed by the EU countries.

Meanwhile, the United States is pushing for even tougher sanctions that are even less acceptable to Moscow and Beijing.

Afraid Of Sanctions?

Afraid Of Sanctions?
Comprehensive sanctions could further slow development in Iran's strategic oil and gas sectors (Fars)

WHAT DOES TEHRAN REALLY THINK? On August 22, Radio Farda correspondent Fatemeh Aman spoke with Alex Vatanka, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group, by telephone from Alexandria, Virginia. Vatanka discussed the possible impact that comprehensive sanctions could have for Iran.

Radio Farda: Some Iranian authorities are trying to create the impression that they aren't concerned about the possibility of international sanctions against it. They emphasize that what Iran has achieved so far has happened despite the sanctions already in place against it. Are they really not afraid of sanctions?

Vatanka: I think that what the Iranians are trying to do is to continue to play this balancing act. On the one hand, they are trying to say, "Look, we have done without you for 27 years; we can continue." On the other hand, if you look at every other major Iranian overture toward the U.S., obviously what they are hoping to do is remove those sanctions. It is the sanctions that have been the biggest obstacle to a genuine expansion in the Iranian economy. It is the sanctions and U.S. policies vis-a-vis Iran that have, for instance, kept Iran from joining the World Bank. It is sanctions and so on that have made the Iranian oil industry have such a tough time in bringing investment into the strategic oil and gas sectors. People like [former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi-]Rafsanjani back in the mid 1990s even kept certain fields untouched because the idea was that U.S. companies should have those once the sanctions were lifted.
I think sanctions are quite important to the Iranians, but at the same time what they are trying to say is, "Don't assume that we are going to fall off our chair just because you mentioned the sanctions card." It is part of a kind diplomatic chess game going on by Tehran. But remember if we look and listen to Iranian reformists, this is being openly debated inside Iran. The question that is being asked of [President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his entourage] is, "What is the ultimate objective?" Is it just Islamic independence? Is it just the ability to enrich uranium? The debate in Iran by the reformists -- and I think a lot of people would sympathize with this -- is, "What are we being sanctioned for exactly and what policies do you have to make sure that those sanctions don't hit us harder than we have already been hit?"
Remember, the big issue here is this: Iran has been sanctioned by the U.S. Iran has never faced comprehensive United Nations sanctions. The Iranian people have never suffered on a scale that the Iraqi people, for instance, suffered because of such sanctions. So it is kind of disingenuous of these senior leaders to pretend that Iran has already gone through comprehensive sanctions. Iran has not. And it will be totally different set of circumstances that will have a totally different impact on Iranian society and the economy, should the UN impose comprehensive sanctions on the country.

THE COMPLETE PICTURE: RFE/RL's complete coverage of controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.


An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.