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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Russia Delays Iran Sanctions Meeting at Security Council

Russia yesterday postponed six-nation talks on a U.N. Security Council resolution to impose sanctions on Iran after the United States discussed a seemingly unrelated issue in the council, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Dec. 12).

Yesterday, the five permanent council members and Germany appeared to be close to agreeing on a sanctions package that would press Iran to freeze its nuclear activities while a long-term solution to the crisis can be negotiated.

However, Russia canceled the scheduled meeting after U.S. representative William Brencick criticized the jailing of a political opposition leader in Belarus. The close Russian ally has imprisoned Alexander Kozulin since March after he led a march protesting presidential elections in Belarus, AP reported. Kozulin and two others had campaigned against President Alexander Lukashenko.

“We raised this issue and our goal was to highlight the plight of this individual and what it means for the state of democracy in this country,” said a U.S. official in Washington.”

“It wasn’t the best timing by the U.S.,” said British U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry.

Asked to explain the cancellation of the Iran meeting, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said, “Because I said so” (Edith Lederer, Associated Press I/CBS News, Dec. 13).

Meanwhile, Moscow has asked Tehran to maintain its financial payments to enable delivery of fuel in March to the nuclear power station Russia is building for Iran at Bushehr.

“We have confirmed that everything will proceed according to plan, but only if Iran provides $20-25 million for the construction of Bushehr every month,” said Sergei Shmatko, head of the nuclear power firm Atomstroiexport. His statement yesterday reflected financial disputes that have troubled the Iranian-Russian deal, AP reported.

Shmatko said Iran had recently made a $22 million payment and “promised us that the Iranian side will maintain the pace” (Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press II/The Hindu, Dec. 12).
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