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ARAB-EUROPEAN RELATIONS - Mar 13 - Moscow May Be Losing Patience With Tehran.

Russia's FM Sergei Lavrov, says Moscow will within days hold talks with Iran on its nuclear programme, but sharply criticised Tehran for "absolutely not helping" countries that wanted to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Lavrov's unusually outspoken remarks hinted he was losing patience, after an Iranian FM spokesman said on Mar 12 that Tehran would no longer consider a Russian compromise - designed to provide Iran with nuclear fuel but prevent it from gaining weapons - unless it included nuclear research on Iranian soil. A senior Iranian official on Mar 13 insisted Tehran wanted to find a diplomatic way out of the nuclear stand-off and was still considering Moscow's proposal to set up a joint venture on Russian soil that would provide Iran with enriched uranium for a peaceful nuclear power programme. But in several rounds of talks Iranian officials have consistently said they will not give up a research programme at the Natanz plant that uses a small number of centrifuges, the device used to enrich uranium. "We are extremely disappointed with Tehran's conduct during these talks", Lavrov was quoted as saying". Iran is absolutely failing to help those [parties] which are seeking peaceful ways to resolve this problem". He added: Contradictory signals are coming from Tehran. One day they reject it, the next day they don't". Lavrov added that Tehran had asked for new consultations which would take place soon. The Interfax news agency said they could be held in Moscow as early as today. Russia has insisted it shares the international community's desire to ensure Iran does not gain nuclear weapons. But it has argued that referring the issue to the UN Security Council, which could lead to sanctions on Iran, would be ineffective and counter-productive. Lavrov also accused Washington of using the nuclear crisis "to solve some political tasks in their relations with the [current Iranian] regime". In a speech in London, Jack Straw, UK foreign secretary, added that the EU was planning to step up pressure on Iran but dismissed suggestions of military action, regime change or oil sanctions. "A protracted UN process is likely to exacerbate the situation", he said, referring to falls in the Iranian stock exchange and the difficulty of finding jobs for the country's swelling labour force. "That is not what we want for the Iranian people - but the decision is in the hands of the Iranian regime". Straw rejected the idea that the US was contemplating military action against Iran. "It just isn't", he said. He also labelled the notion of regime change in Iran - supported by some in the US - as a "conceit". In New York, France scheduled talks on Mar 14 between all 15 members of the UN Security Council, as the permanent five struggled to reach agreement on a tough statement against Iran, Mark Turner adds. Diplomats hinted that if China and Russia failed to endorse a strong statement, which requires unanimity, they could push for a vote instead. "We're trying within the Perm-5, but we're not going to rest there if we can't reach agreement", said John Bolton, US ambassador. "We'll go to the larger council. Reality is reality, and time is an important factor".
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Mar 18, 2006
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