Russia's Lavrov rejects sanctions on Iran for now

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UNITED NATIONS, Sep 28 (Reuters) On the eve of major power talks on Iran's nuclear ambitions, Russia's foreign minister made clear new sanctions would have to wait until UN inspectors had surveyed Tehran's activities.

Iran last month agreed to explain the scope of its nuclear program to the International Atomic Energy Agency, but critics say the deal allows Tehran to address issues one by one in a long-drawn-out process that could last until December.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in comments to reporters, did not exclude another round of UN Security Council sanctions in the future. But he said it was important that the IAEA report ''on how those problems which still exist (on) the Iran nuclear program are being treated.'' ''And as long as Iran is doing at least something which satisfied part of the demands of the Security Council, I believe we have to calibrate our action in the Security Council and elsewhere,'' he said.

''We are committed to continue to engage the Security Council to support negotiations and to respond from the Security Council to ups and downs in the situation,'' Lavrov said.

The Russian minister spoke late yesterday after introducing a new Russian Arab-language television station, Rusiya al-Yaum, at a New York hotel.

The United States, France and Britain want the council to agree soon to tougher sanctions against Tehran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, which the West suspects is cover for bomb making. Iran says its program is for generating nuclear power.

Foreign ministers from Germany and the five UN Security Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China meet today to discuss action on Iran.

In response, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said IAEA activities in Iran ''cannot be used as a shield to protect Iran from its lack of implementation of the demands of the Security Council in regard to the enrichment of uranium that Iran has been asked to suspend twice.'' Russia and China previously voted for two sets of punitive measures after Tehran refused to suspend enrichment, and both nations have veto power in the 15-member Security Council.

Earlier, France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters that Lavrov had made clear in discussions with him that he was unlikely to support new UN sanctions until after the IAEA finished its survey in December.

''I think it would very difficult to convince the Russians and the Chinese before (then),'' said Kouchner, who said he had spent hours trying in vain to persuade Lavrov to join western states in a new round of tighter sanctions against Iran.

UNITY STRESSED British Foreign Minister David Miliband, in briefing reporters, stressed the importance of unity among the major powers, the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, which would negotiate a resolution.

''The most important thing is that the unanimity of the international community is valued by all six (powers) and sends a very clear signal to Iran and we need to keep that going.'' Asked about US and French calls for sanctions outside the Security Council, Miliband said: ''It's already the case that European Union countries have taken greater action than was required by the Security Council. That is healthy and good.'' He said companies and banks were making their own decisions about investment based on the political risk.

''The figures on the fall in European investment in Iran in the first 6 months of this year are spectacular,'' he said, citing a 40 per cent decrease. ''There is evidence of sanctions having an effect.'' Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday that the issue of his country's nuclear ambitions was ''closed'' and was now to be handled by the IAEA.

Reuters KK VP0720

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