US critical of Russia over its stand on Iran
WASHINGTON, May 4 (Reuters) The United States voiced growing frustration on Wednesday over Russia's ties with Iran, saying Moscow needed to stop planned arms sales to Tehran and take a tougher line on the Islamic Republic's nuclear plans.
Russia is a permanent, veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council and opposes punitive action the United States and others want against Tehran, which is suspected of developing a nuclear weapons program that Iran says is for civilian use.
Britain, France and the United States introduced a draft resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN charte yesterday demanding that Iran suspend uranium enrichment. Russia and China oppose the text of the resolution.
In a swipe at Moscow, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Russia should look closely at its current level of cooperation with Iran and scrap a planned arms deal.
''Certainly, we don't think it's appropriate that they continue with arms sales to such a regime (Iran), a regime that has talked about wiping Israel off the face of the map,'' McCormack said, referring to comments by Iran's president that Israel should be destroyed.
''In our view, that's not a regime to whom you should be selling arms,'' said McCormack.
Washington wants Moscow to cancel the planned sale to Iran of Tor tactical surface-to-air missiles. Moscow and Tehran say they are for defensive purposes and Russia wants to go ahead with the deal.
McCormack said that since Iran announced last month it was enriching uranium, Moscow should look again at how it dealt with Tehran over arms sales and particularly ''in the area of nuclear cooperation.'' Russia and China strongly oppose any punitive measures against Iran.
The text of the UN resolution introduced yesterday does not include sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program but threatens to consider ''further measures'' to ensure compliance.
Chapter 7 resolutions passed against Iraq have been seen as giving the United States the legal argument for the bombing and the invasion of that country in 2003. Russia fears the United States will use a Chapter 7 resolution in the same way against Iran, although Washington insists it will not.
''We've made clear from the president on down that we are on a diplomatic course. The agenda now is diplomacy. And while the president never takes any options off the table, we are on a diplomatic course,'' said McCormack.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her counterparts from the four other permanent members of the Security Council, including Russia, will be meeting in New York on Monday to discuss what action to take against Iran.
REUTERS DKS RK0510