Russia Asks That Iran Be Given
No Deadline on
Incentives, Envoy Says
By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 7, 2008; Page A04
UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 6 -- Russia said Wednesday that Iran should be granted more time to respond to
a package of incentives that the United States and five other powerful nations
have offered Tehran to freeze its uranium enrichment efforts, a stance that may
slow U.S. and European efforts to impose U.N. sanctions on Tehran.
U.N. ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin,
said the six nations should continue negotiating with Iran over its
nuclear program. He dismissed assertions by the United
States, Britain and France that Tehran had missed a deadline this week to
respond to the offer, which would make a push for U.N. sanctions inevitable.
"We haven't set any deadlines for their
response," he said. "We have some negotiating opportunities, and
rather than focus almost entirely on sanctions we should focus on what those
opportunities should be."
Churkin's remarks raised
the prospect of renewed strains between Washington
and Moscow over Iran policy during the final months of President Bush's tenure. Administration
officials say Iran
is buying time to advance its capacity to enrich uranium,
an effort they suspect is intended to fuel a nuclear weapon. They have made it
clear they hope to secure a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran before Bush leaves
office in January, according to U.N. diplomats.
denies that it is seeking nuclear weapons, and says that the council has no
right to prevent it from developing a civilian energy program.
The United States,
France and Britain pressed ahead with efforts to punish Tehran after a conference
call Wednesday between representative of the six
nations. Britain's top
Middle East expert, Kim Howells, indicated that the allies secured agreement
with Russia and China to pursue a "dual track
strategy" on Iran --
including discussion of possible U.N. sanctions and further contacts between Iran's nuclear
negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and Javier Solana, the
European Union's foreign policy chief.
The latest standoff comes nearly two months after the five permanent members of the Security
Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia
and the United States -- as
well as Germany offered to sweeten a package of
economic, political and security incentives to Iran. Solana, the group's representative,
until last Saturday to accept the package or face further U.N. sanctions.
said in a letter to Solana Tuesday that it is ready to respond to the offer as
long as the six big powers "simultaneously" provide Tehran with a more detailed explanation of
The United States,
France and Britain accused Iran of stonewalling, and said they
would begin talks on a new U.N. sanctions resolution. Churkin,
the Russian representative, conceded that "we would have preferred a more
straightforward and positive answer from our Iranian colleagues."
"The letter that we received yesterday appears
to be a stalling tactic," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos
said. He said the big powers are "beginning to consider the possible
outlines of another resolution."
Council diplomats and analysts said Russia's
initiative would lend support to what they think is an Iranian effort to buy
time. "The Iranians seems determine to run out the clock," said
Justin Logan of the Cato Institute. "The Iran problem appears likely to be
handed to the next president