Tehran, April 21 (Reuters): Hardening its opposition to sanctions against Iran, Russia said today the UN Security Council should only consider such measures if it had proof the Islamic republic was trying to build nuclear weapons.
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 programme.
The US, Britain and France want the Security Council to weigh sanctions if, as widely expected, IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei concludes Iran has not met UN demands.
But Russia made it clear that it would not view such non-compliance on its own as warranting punitive steps against Tehran.
“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 insists on a legal right to enrich uranium for civilian nuclear energy and denies any secret bomb-building agenda.
The IAEA has found no hard evidence Iran is after atomic weaponry.
But Iran has covered up parts of its nuclear programme 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 accused the Security Council of 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 today, but diplomats said they had been told Heinonen would not go.
A diplomat familiar with IAEA dealings with Iran said the trip had been clouded by what he said was the hard line taken by Iranian negotiators who met EU officials in Moscow on Wednesday.
“It was a debacle in Moscow, and the Iranians are acting empowered,” the diplomat said. No consensus on sanctions emerged when the council’s five permanent members held talks in Moscow on Tuesday.