Russia and China have backed a new set of sanctions on Iran in the United Nations Security Council over the country’s refusal to negotiate about its suspected nuclear weapons programme.
The sanctions are the toughest yet, despite a move by Russia and China to soften them – freezing the assets of 40 additional companies and organisations linked to the country, and subjecting 40 Iranian officials to an asset freeze and travel ban.
Russia’s and China’s votes at the UN Security Council have now hampered their relations with Iran.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad conspicuously spurned Thursday’s summit in Tashkent of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), of which Iran is an observer – a move linked to member states China and Russia backing the UN sanctions.
Russia moved to freeze a contract to deliver S-300 air defence missiles to Iran, an unidentified arms industry source told Interfax, in apparent compliance with the new sanctions.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged “crippling” sanctions against Iran, after Teheran revealed it had begun enriching uranium by 20 per cent in February.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin repeatedly ruled out sanctions in 2009, but President Dmitry Medvedev took a different line, finally conceding that sanctions may be unavoidable.
Russia and China apparently succeeded in drafting a softer agreement.
“Our Western partners from the Iran Six [Russia, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and China] prepared a draft resolution that neither Russia nor China were able to support. As a result of intensive consultations, we excluded the conditions aimed at imposing crippling sanctions [on Iran],” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying earlier this week.
Sanctions have placed additional strain on Russia’s relations with Iran, and may be linked to Russia’s efforts to keep Iran from joining the SCO.
Uzbekistan, Moscow and Beijing may adopt stricter rules to keep Iran from becoming a full SCO member.
“It’s clear that neither Russia nor China – and especially China – want the SCO to be in opposition to the rest of the world. No matter what the reasons for admitting Iran, whatever the actual motivation, would be viewed as a countermove against the United States,” Fyodor Lukyanov informed.