WORLD / Middle East

Russia toughens opposition to UN sanctions on Iran
Updated: 2006-04-21 21:27

Hardening its opposition to sanctions against Iran, Russia said on Friday only proof that the Iran was seeking atom bombs could justify consideration of such measures by the U.N. Security Council.

Iranian army soldiers march during the Army Day military parade in Tehran, Iran April 18, 2006. [Reuters]

The council is awaiting a report on April 28 from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on whether Tehran is meeting its demands for a halt to uranium enrichment and answers to queries about its nuclear program.

The United States, Britain and France want the Security Council to weigh sanctions if, as widely expected, IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei concludes Iran has not met U.N. demands.

But Russia made clear that it would not view such non-compliance on its own as justifying punitive measures.

"We will only be able to talk about sanctions after we have concrete facts confirming that Iran is not exclusively involved in peaceful nuclear activities," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said, Itar-Tass news agency reported.

Iran says its nuclear work aims only to produce electricity, not bombs. But it has hidden parts of its program in the past, and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has heightened world concern by saying Israel should be "wiped off the map."

Senior cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani told Friday prayer worshippers ElBaradei and the IAEA had singled out Iran's quest for technology, while ignoring a nuclear-armed Israel.

"Israel has got nuclear warheads and it is proliferating them constantly and you do not ask them why," Kashani said.

He also criticized the Security Council for failing to live up to its name. "You are establishing security for the wolves and predators rather than for the sheep," the cleric declared.

Iran had said an IAEA team led by Olli Heinonen, deputy director-general for nuclear safeguards, would arrive on Friday, but diplomats said they had been told Heinonen would not go.

A Vienna-based EU diplomat said Iran had not responded to requests for more cooperation. There was no point in Heinonen going to Tehran "if he's just going to get stonewalled."
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