Russia, China seek new Iran nuclear talks

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Russia and China sought to cool frayed tempers Thursday following a UN Security Council resolution imposing fresh sanctions on Iran, saying they still wanted talks to end the nuclear standoff.

Both were forced to act after Iran slammed the fourth round of sanctions passed by the Security Council on Wednesday. But Russia also froze a contract to send S-300 missiles to Iran, officials were quoted as saying.

Russia and China both have traditionally close ties to Iran, have in the past refused tougher sanctions and stand to lose a lot of business in any backlash against their votes this time.

"It is clear that the sanctions will not settle the problem of Iran's nuclear programme by themself," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement. "Our efforts aim to give impetus to a political and diplomatic settlement of the issue."

The ministry added that the resolution did not impose "stifling or paralysing" sanctions on Iran and ruled out the use of force.

Russia also warned against unilateral sanctions by other countries. "For us any such attempts to go beyond the Security Council are unacceptable," it said.

The UN vote slapping new military and financial sanctions on Iran is the fourth attempt since 2006 to rein in Tehran's suspect nuclear programme.

The US-drafted resolution was adopted by 12 votes in the 15-member Security Council, with Lebanon abstaining and Brazil and Turkey voting against. Russia and China, both permanent members of the council who can veto any resolution, supportered the measure.

China said dialogue was needed to end international fears that Iran is seeking a nuclear bomb.

"China always holds it is the right way to address the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue, negotiation and other diplomatic means to seek a solution that satisfies the concerns of all parties," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in remarks carried by state news agency Xinhua.

China and Russia only backed the sanctions after months of bargaining in which they watered down the original US draft to protect their substantial energy and economic interests in Iran.

Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi, who oversees Iran's nuclear programme, lashed out at China.

"China is gradually losing its respectable position in the Islamic world and by the time it wakes up, it will be too late," Salehi told ISNA news agency.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is expected in China on Friday to visit the World Expo, said: "These resolutions are not worth a dime for the Iranian nation." He has threatened to suspend negotiations with six major powers if the sanctions were imposed.

Speaking in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, he said he had told world powers "that the resolutions you issue are like a used hanky which should be thrown in the dust bin."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said there was still room for a diplomatic solution and that Turkey's vote against the sanctions was a matter of honour.

"If we had not said 'no' it would have been self-denial... It would have been a lack of self-respect," Erdogan said at a Turkey-Arab forum in Istanbul.

"We insist that all problems must be resolved at the negotiating table. Nothing is achieved with weapons or through embargoes and isolation. Together with Brazil, we will keep up our efforts for a negotiated solution," he said.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said there would be a great cost for the countries that imposed the sanctions. Describing the move as a "Pyrrhic victory," a success that comes with a massive burden to the victors, Lula told reporters that the move "weakened the UN Security Council."

The sanctions were welcomed by the United States and its European allies, who insisted the doors remained open for negotiations.

Speaking at the White House, US President Barack Obama said the "toughest-ever" Security Council sanctions sent an "unmistakable message".

But he stressed: "I want to be clear, these sanctions do not close the door on diplomacy, Iran continues to have the opportunity to take a different and better path."

© 2010 AFP

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