Russia: Western sanctions against Iran stifling

Russia: Western sanctions against Iran stifling

MOSCOW - The Associated Press
Russia: Western sanctions against Iran stifling

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a meeting with his Algerian counterpart Mourad Medelci in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)

Russia's foreign minister on Wednesday warned the West against imposing new sanctions against Iran, saying they would "stifle" the Iranian economy and hurt the population.

Sergey Lavrov said sanctions on oil exports considered by the European Union could stymie efforts to solve the Iranian nuclear standoff through talks.

"It has nothing to do with a desire to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation," he said at a news conference. "It's aimed at stifling the Iranian economy and the population in an apparent hope to provoke discontent." Russia has walked a fine line on the Iranian nuclear crisis, mixing careful criticism of Iran, an important trading partner, with praise for some of its moves and calls for more talks.

The EU is weighing whether to impose sanctions on buying Iranian oil, which is the source of more than 80 percent of Tehran's foreign revenue. The U.S. has already imposed new sanctions targeting Iran's central bank and, by extension, refiners' ability to buy and pay for crude.

The sanctions are linked to Iran's disputed uranium enrichment program, which the U.S. and its Western allies suspect is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charges, saying its program is aimed at civilian power generation and research.

Moscow, which built Iran's first nuclear power plant, backed some of the previous U.N. sanctions against Iran, but in recent months has firmly rejected imposing any new sanctions and called for dialogue.

Russia believes that "all thinkable sanctions already have been applied" and that new penalties could derail hopes for continung six-way negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program, provoking Iranian intransigence, Lavrov said.

He noted that the EU's consideration of new sanctions comes as Iran plans to host a delegation from the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

"We believe that there is every chance to resume talks between the six powers and Iran, and we are concerned about obstacles being put to them," he said. "The sanctions could hardly help make the talks productive."

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