Russia opposes new sanctions against Iran and believes negotiations with Tehran on its disputed nuclear program can be resumed, Moscow's U.N. ambassador said Friday.
Vitaly Churkin told a news conference that Russia also believes the "threats and insinuations of possible military action against Iran" over its nuclear program are not helpful. He urged the international community to stop whipping up tensions and try to promote dialogue.
The U.N. Security Council first imposed sanctions against Iran in December 2006 and has been ratcheting up the punitive measures since then in hopes of pressuring the government to suspend uranium enrichment and start negotiations on its nuclear program. Iran has refused to do so. Enriched uranium can be used to make both nuclear fuel and nuclear weapons material.
Churkin said that in adopting the four sanctions resolutions, Russia has said "that sanctions must be targeted exclusively at Iran's nuclear and missile programs." In some cases, he said, the measures that were adopted "frayed that limit which was set."
"We believe that the sanctions track in the Security Council has been exhausted," Churkin said.
The Russian ambassador, whose country holds the council presidency this month, was also highly critical of a Nov. 8 report by the U.N. nuclear agency detailing Iran's alleged secret weapons work. For the first time, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran was suspected of clandestine work that is "specific to nuclear weapons."
Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful and aimed solely at producing nuclear energy. Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant was built by the Russians.
The West, which believes Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, had hoped the IAEA report could sway Moscow and Beijing into adopting even tougher sanctions.
Churkin said the report was more of "a PR exercise than a serious nuclear effort" and contained "very little new information about the various suspicions about Iran's nuclear program."
He said Russia was also "quite upset" that its recent intensive effort and "creative suggestions to help restart talks" between Iran and six key nations _ the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany _ were interrupted by the release of the IAEA report.
"We thought that we were on the verge of restarting those talks on the basis of our proposals, because we started recieving some encouraging signals _ substantive signals from the Iranian side ... and also some encouraging signals from our partners in the six," Churkin said. He did not reveal any details of the Russian proposals.
Moscow was pleased, Churkin said, that the IAEA board of governors recently adopted a constructive resolution encouraging further talks.
While the situation continues to be "very complex," Churkin said, "we believe that (the) negotiating track can be resumed."