Last update - 14:33 17/01/2008
FM: Russian fuel deliveries could help Iran develop nuclear arms
Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies
Foreign Minister Tzipi said on Thursday that Israel is concerned Russian deliveries of nuclear fuel to Iran might help Tehran develop nuclear weapons.

Russia last month delivered the first shipment of nuclear fuel to Iran's first nuclear power plant in Bushehr, a step which both Moscow and Washington said should convince Tehran to stop its own uranium enrichment program.

But Livni said during a visit to Russia that the fuel might help Iran develop its nuclear weapons program. "Now Russia has started delivering nuclear fuel to Bushehr, [Iran's] uranium enrichment may serve military goals," Russian news agencies quoted Livni as saying.

Israel, Washington's staunchest ally in Middle East, says Iran could have a nuclear bomb by 2010 and says an Iranian nuclear weapon would threaten Israel's existence.

The international community must turn its declarations of concerns over Iran's nuclear program into action or the rules of the game are likely to change, Livni said on Thursday.

Livni, who arrived in Moscow late Wednesday for talks with Russian officials on Iran and the Middle East process, said, "Iran's destructive ideology is not connected to Israel, but to deep extremist religious foundations."

"The combination of this ideology with its experiments to acquire nuclear weapons obligates the world to translate its declarations into actions. If the world does not deal with iran the situation and the rules of the game are likely to change."

Meanwhile, China urged flexibility and compromise from both Iran and the West on Thursday ahead of discussions focused on possible United Nations action aimed at reining in Tehran's nuclear activities.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili is in Beijing for talks and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is also visiting China for discussions that will feature Iran.

"We hope that Iran will be able to abide by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and continue to show flexibility and fully cooperate with the international community," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a news conference.

"We also hope that the international community will intensify diplomatic efforts to break the stalemate."

She did not say explicitly whether China favoured or opposed further UN sanctions against Iran.

Foreign ministers from major powers, including China, are set to meet in Berlin next week to discuss a possible third UN Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran.

The West fears Tehran is seeking an atom bomb and has imposed two sets of United Nations sanctions. Iran says it aims only to generate electricity.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has the power to veto any resolutions.

A U.S. intelligence estimate late last year concluded that Iran stopped nuclear warhead development efforts in 2003. But Washington and other Western powers say Iran's uranium enrichment and other nuclear activities remain dangerous and defy earlier UN resolutions.

With a growing dependence on Iranian oil and a general distaste for economic sanctions, China has been reluctant to embrace tougher U.N. measures.

China has urged Iran to abide by UN demands to answer questions about its nuclear activities, but has been reluctant to back a U.S. drive for further sanctions against Iran, which is Beijing's third-largest supplier of imported crude oil.

Negroponte said the U.S. intelligence estimate did not remove the need for tougher sanctions.

"We think it's important that there be an additional Security Council resolution, because Iran is out of compliance with previously passed resolutions," Negroponte told reporters ahead of his talks with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo.

Iran: Western nuclear pressure is failing
Iran's nuclear negotiator Jalili said on Thursday the West had failed in efforts to put pressure on the Islamic Republic over its atomic activities.

"Those countries who so far have been after imposing sanctions and putting pressure on Iran have not achieved any success," chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili told the official IRNA news agency at the start of a visit to Beijing.

"Today, global developments and Iran's logical behavior do not allow anybody to do this."

A U.S. intelligence report last month said Iran stopped an active nuclear arms drive in 2003, compounding international disagreement over the next steps regarding Iran.

China and Russia, veto-wielding UN Security Council members, have balked at more sanctions resolutions on Tehran.

Jalili said Iran and China, which imports large amounts of oil from the Islamic state, enjoyed good relations.

Iran's OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, said he did not believe the UN Security Council would be able to agree on new sanctions against Tehran.

"In my opinion it is unlikely that the Chinese and Russians would join a third resolution," he told the Iran daily. "Any sanctions on investments in Iran's energy sector could endanger security of supply and hit consumer countries," he said.

Germany said on Wednesday it wanted a UN resolution increasing sanctions on Iran and major powers plan to meet in Berlin on Tuesday to discuss strategy.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will first consult in Vienna on Thursday with International Atomic Energy Agency Director Mohamed ElBaradei.

The UN nuclear watchdog chief held talks in Tehran last week to seek swifter cooperation with a long IAEA inquiry into Iran's nuclear history and an end to curbs on UN inspections meant to ensure its present programme is wholly peaceful.

ElBaradei returned with an agreement from Iran to answer remaining questions within a month about past, covert nuclear work that had military applications.

Iranian officials have said new sanctions could hurt its cooperation with the UN nuclear body.

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  • Original article: Ha'aretz
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