Vol. 5 Num 698 Wed. May 17, 2006  

Russia, China rule out use of force against Iran

Russia and China will "definitely not" approve the use of force against Iran over its nuclear programme, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said here yesterday after meeting with China's leaders.

"Russia and China definitely will not vote for a resolution which could be an excuse for the use of force," Lavrov said through a translator after meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing, and President Hu Jintao.

"We believe we shouldn't isolate Iran or increase pressure. This will not only not reduce the possibility of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, it will have the opposite effect."

Lavrov's comments come after a US push for a binding United Nations' resolution on Iran, which could have opened the way to economic sanctions and military action, ground to a halt due to Russian and Chinese resistance.

Lavrov said Russia and China were similarly in agreement over the non-use of force to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.

"We agreed these two issues should be solved politically, through diplomacy, and that we shouldn't threaten these two countries. Even more importantly we shouldn't use force," he said in reference to Iran and North Korea.

However Lavrov did hold Iran up for some criticism, saying Tehran needed to do more to cooperate with the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"Iran at the moment has not completely replied to and given explanations on the questions raised by the IAEA investigation," Lavrov said.

"We regret this very much. We hope the Iran side will give a reply at an early date."

The IAEA has been investigating Iran since 2003 and says it is not yet able to certify that the Iranian nuclear programme is strictly peaceful.

Iran says its nuclear programme is a peaceful drive to generate electricity but the United States and other Western nations say it is a cover for the secret development of atomic weapons.

China and Russia are permanent, veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council along with the United States, France and Britain.

With its moves for a UN resolution stymied by China and Russia, the United States has given its European allies "a couple of weeks" to draft a fresh approach.

In response, the European Union said Monday it would make a "bold" offer to persuade Iran to curb its atomic ambitions, including possible security guarantees and help to develop peaceful nuclear power.

The EU has until Friday -- when negotiators from the Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany meet in London -- to complete its package.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said Tuesday his nation welcomed the European Union's latest diplomatic efforts, although he did not comment specifically on the contents of the EU's plan.