State Dept. Says Moscow Restrains Iran
Wednesday November 5, 2003 4:01 AM
By BARRY SCHWEID AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Russia is pressuring Iran to make good on promises to open its nuclear facilities to international inspection and may halt an $800 million deal to build a reactor for a power plant if Iran backtracks, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.
Russia is viewed as very supportive on the issue, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The pressure is being applied by Moscow through diplomatic channels, in tandem with a similar effort by the European Union, the official said.
Despite a decade of U.S. complaints that Russian technology was helping Iran to try to develop a nuclear weapons program, Moscow has refused to halt the lucrative project.
President Bush renewed U.S. concerns at a meeting at Camp David in September with President Vladimir Putin. But the Russian leader refused to halt plans to build the power plant in Iran.
Putin said Russia would ``give a clear but respectful signal to Iran about the necessity to continue and expand its cooperation'' with international inspectors. Putin said then his country ``has no desire and no plans to contribute in any way to the development of weapons of mass destruction, either in Iran or any other country in the world.''
Since then, Iran has promised to open its facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Under pressure from the agency's board, Iran has handed over what it said was a complete declaration of its nuclear activities.
The IAEA director, Mohammed ElBaradei, has said inspectors were in the process of verifying Iran's submission.
The State Department official said Russia may use delaying tactics as part of its pressure campaign. He said the reactor project would not be completed at least until 2005.
Meanwhile, Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev met for several hours Tuesday with Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. The Russian official planned to meet on Thursday with Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser.
Abraham, in an interview Monday, said ``progress has been extensive'' in working with the Russians to improve security at their nuclear sites and on a program to safeguard Russia's nuclear material that could be used for weapons was being accelerated.
Renewed criticism of Russia came from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the foundation of U.S.-Russian relations was threatened by ``a creeping coup against the forces of democracy and market capitalism.''
McCain, in a statement he read to the Senate, said Russia appears increasingly to have more in common with its Soviet and czarist predecessors than with a modern state.
``The dramatic deterioration of democracy in Russia calls into question the fundamental premises of our Russian policy,'' McCain said.
McCain's comments drew a quick and strong rebuke from the Russian Embassy in Washington. It characterized the statement as ``a blatant example of the Cold War sentiments still nurtured by some members of the U.S. political establishment.''
``An aggressive invective delivered by Senator McCain under the guise of heartfelt concern for the Yukos company and the fate of market economy and democracy in Russia is an outrageous and direct encroachment on the present and future of Russian-U.S. strategic partnership,'' the statement said.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia's richest man, who resigned Monday as chief executive of the petroleum company Yukos, has been jailed on charges of fraud and tax evasion. Khodorkovsky has financed opposition parties, and Putin's critics contend Putin's fellow former KGB officers orchestrated the tycoon's arrest for political reasons. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/story/0,1282,-3350225,00.html