Iran nuclear proposal rejected as Russia dismisses sanctions

President Obama had hoped to pressure Iran by building international consensus on tougher sanctions.

As the United States rejected a new proposal for talks presented by Iran this week, Russia has broken ranks sharply with Washington, warning that it will not support the US call for tougher sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Russia’s statement comes as a setback for President Barack Obama, who had hoped to build an international consensus about sanctions before the United Nations General Assembly meeting in two weeks.

Russia’s stance, and its veto power as a member of the United Nations Security Council, makes such a consensus look unlikely.

Iran on Wednesday handed over a much-awaited proposal for new talks to the so-called P5+1 group – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany.

The contents have not been made public, but the independent investigative news outlet, ProPublica, obtained and posted a copy of the document, saying, “[T]he new proposal is silent on Iran's own nuclear program…[it] reiterated many of its previous ideas for talks while scaling back specific requests made in previous proposals.

The Washington Post summarized the gist of the proposal:

Iran is not prepared to discuss halting its uranium enrichment program in response to Western demands but is proposing instead a worldwide control system aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's top political aide said in an interview Thursday.

Washington immediately rejected the proposal, the Post adds:

“It's not really responsive to our greatest concern, which is obviously Iran's nuclear program," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said of Tehran's package of proposals. "Iran reiterated its view that as far as it is concerned, its nuclear file is closed. . . . That is certainly not the case. There are many outstanding issues."

And that has opened up a rift with Russia, according to the Wall Street Journal:

[Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov] disagreed with the U.S. assessment, contending there was "something there to use" in the proposal Tehran sent to the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany….
Mr. Lavrov appeared to dismiss U.S. and Israeli warnings of urgency.

This week Glyn Davies, Washington's chief envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that Iran might already be in possession of enough nuclear fuel to build a bomb. Iran’s Press TV reports that Russia also disagrees with this point.

Mr. Davies' remarks are in apparent contradiction with those of Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who declared on Thursday that "Iran cannot produce uranium for military purposes, even if it wanted to." Lavrov said that his claim was based on surveillance by the…IAEA.

Due to the disagreements, sanctions now look increasingly unlikely, reports Reuters:

World powers meeting at the U.N. General Assembly and the G-20 gathering later this month are unlikely to push immediately for tougher sanctions on Iran, an official familiar with preparations for the meetings said on Thursday.

The Associated Press adds that Obama administration, despite rejecting Iran’s proposal, “remains open to talks and held out hope that Iranian officials might signal a similar interest by the time world leaders meet later this month at the U.N. General Assembly.”

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