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Russia Rejects Iran Sanctions Draft Proposal

Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that the EU/US draft proposal for sanctions on Iran were unacceptable and inconsistent with the Security Council Mandate regarding Iran. “I believe the proposed draft resolution does not meet the objectives set out by the Iran-6 [the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany],” Lavrov said. He added, “Our goal is to eliminate the risks of sensitive technologies getting into the hands of Iran until the IAEA clarifies issues of interest to it, while maintaining all possible channels of communication with Iran.” This implies that Russia does not believe constructing a nuclear plant constitutes risking “sensitive technologies getting into the hands of Iran.”

Eliminated from the language received from the EU by Russia and China was any restriction on the Russian construction of the Bushehr nuclear facility in Iran. The United States wanted such a restriction in place, though it fully expected it to eventually be stripped. American UN Ambassador John Bolton wanted the measure in place originally so as to serve as a bargaining chip. The New York Times quoted a European diplomat as saying, “The Americans say, ‘We have to make the text even stronger because we know the Russians will water it down.’” The diplomat disagreed with the approach as “not a productive way of thinking.”

But the Russians have rejected the proposal even without such stipulations. In the draft, the Russian construction at Bushehr is not prohibited, though there are unspecified measures regarding the supply of fuel to Iran once construction is complete.

The State Department’s Nicholas Burns assured that the Bushehr nuclear plant would not be a “major stumbling point.” That its Russian construction is left unaddressed in the initial draft speaks to that loudly.

The text of the draft proposal is unavailable, but it is reported that aside from the Bushehr issue, it addresses prohibition of sales of items that could be used for the Iranian nuclear and missile programs, travel restrictions on Iranians involved in the nuclear and missile development programs, and the freezing of assets of individuals involved in the nuclear and missile development programs.

It remains unclear how far up the Iranian leadership chain these travel and financial sanctions would apply. The question remains: Would these sanctions apply to the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and other Iranian leadership figures responsible for oversight and approval of various aspects?

Also reportedly included in the language of the sanctions draft proposal are restrictions on Iranian students abroad, prohibiting them from studying nuclear physics in universities outside Iran. The New York Times calls the educational prohibition an “extraordinary step.” While it may be technically out of the ordinary, it is in line with logic regarding prohibiting a state’s acquisition of technological capabilities.

The United Nations ambassadors from the P5+1 (United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China + Germany) a due to meet today regarding the sanctions draft proposal.