Russia’s ultimatum to Iran: to prevent US invasion??


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

It's always hard to tell what's really behind stories, given how they are spun 
and distorted by the NY Times. But if Russia can get Iran to quit enrichment, 
that would not only give Russia more business supplying enriched Uranium to 
Iran, but it might make a US invasion more difficult politically. There is of 
course the likelihood that the US will use a false-flag incident to enable the 
invasion nonetheless.



March 20, 2007

Russia Gives Iran Ultimatum on Enrichment

PARIS, March 19 ‹ Russia has informed Iran that it will withhold nuclear fuel 
for Iran¹s nearly completed Bushehr power plant unless Iran suspends its uranium
enrichment as demanded by the United Nations Security Council, European, 
American and Iranian officials say.

The ultimatum was delivered in Moscow last week by Igor S. Ivanov, the secretary
of the Russian National Security Council, to Ali Hosseini Tash, Iran¹s deputy 
chief nuclear negotiator, said the officials, who spoke on condition of 
anonymity because a confidential diplomatic exchange between two governments was

For years, President Bush has been pressing President Vladimir V. Putin of 
Russia to cut off help to Iran on the nuclear power plant that Russia is 
building at Bushehr, in southern Iran. But Mr. Putin has resisted. The project 
is Tehran¹s first serious effort to produce nuclear energy and has been very 
profitable for Russia.

Recently, however, Moscow and Tehran have been engaged in a public argument 
about whether Iran has paid its bills, which may explain Russia¹s apparent 
shift. But the ultimatum may also reflect an increasing displeasure and 
frustration on Moscow¹s part with Iran over its refusal to stop enriching 
uranium at its vast facility at Natanz.

³We¹re not sure what mix of commercial and political motives are at play here,² 
one senior Bush administration official said in Washington. ³But clearly the 
Russians and the Iranians are getting on each other¹s nerves ‹ and that¹s not 
all bad.²

A senior European official said: ³We consider this a very important decision by 
the Russians. It shows that our disagreements with the Russians about the 
dangers of Iran¹s nuclear program are tactical. Fundamentally, the Russians 
don¹t want a nuclear Iran.²

At a time of growing tensions between Washington and Moscow, American officials 
are welcoming Russian support on the situation with Iran as a sign that there 
are still areas in which the two powers can cooperate.

Russia has been deeply reluctant to ratchet up sanctions against Iran in the 
Security Council, which is expected to vote on a new set of penalties against 
the country within the next week.

But American officials have been trying to create a commercial incentive for 
Russia to put pressure on Iran. One proposal the Bush administration has 
endorsed since late 2005 envisions having the Russians enrich Iran¹s uranium in 
Russia. That creates the prospect of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in 
business for Russia, and a way to ensure that Iran receives only uranium 
enriched for use in power reactors, instead of for use in weapons.

Iran has rejected those proposals, saying it has the right to enrich uranium on 
its own territory.

The Russian Atomic Energy Agency, or Rosatom, is eager to become a major player 
in the global nuclear energy market. As Security Council action against Iran has
gained momentum and Iran¹s isolation increases, involvement with the Bushehr 
project may detract from Rosatom¹s reputation.

In a flurry of public comments in the past month, Russian officials acknowledged
that Russia was delaying the delivery of fuel to the reactor in the Iranian port
city of Bushehr. It blamed the decision on the failure of Iran to pay what it 
owes on the project, not on concerns about nuclear proliferation.

But last month, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov informed some European 
officials that Russia had made a political decision not to deliver the fuel, 
adding that Russia would state publicly that the sole reason was financial, 
European officials said.

And then last week, a senior Iranian official confirmed in an interview that Mr.
Ivanov had threatened Iran with an ultimatum: The fuel would be delivered only 
after Iran¹s enrichment of uranium at Natanz was frozen.

Members of the Security Council are moving toward a vote this week on a draft 
resolution imposing further sanctions on Iran for its defiance of demands that 
it suspend enrichment activities and return to negotiations over its nuclear 

The resolution focuses on the country¹s arms exports, a leading Iranian bank and
the elite Revolutionary Guards military force. It will reduce Iran¹s access to 
foreign currency and isolate the bank, Bank Sepah, from international financing.

The United States State Department has granted visas to President Mahmoud 
Ahmadinejad of Iran and a retinue of 38 aides and security staff so that he can 
address the Security Council meeting.

Throughout the negotiations, the Russians tried to water down the resolution, a 
reflection of both their desire to avoid a backlash in Iran and their strong 
skepticism about the effectiveness of sanctions.

The pending resolution follows a similar one passed in December that required 
four months of negotiations, in large part because of Russia¹s resistance. 
Russia¹s support came only after an initial proposal, which would have imposed 
curbs on Bushehr, was dropped.

Russian officials have gone out of their way to not publicly link the Bushehr 
project and the crisis over Iran¹s decision to forge ahead with producing 
enriched uranium, which, depending on the level of enrichment, can be used to 
produce electricity or make weapons.

In remarks on Sunday, for example, Mr. Ivanov said there should be no linkage 
between discussions on Iran¹s nuclear program and the Bushehr plant. ³It is a 
separate issue,² he told a conference of Russia¹s Foreign and Defense Policies 
Council. He added, ³All the work being done is under strict control of the 
International Atomic Energy Agency,² the United Nations¹ nuclear watchdog agency
based in Vienna.

He also cautioned against using possible nuclear sanctions for other purposes, 
saying, ³We oppose attempts to use this issue as an instrument of pressure or 
interference in Iran¹s internal affairs.²

But Mr. Ivanov also called on Iran to resolve outstanding questions with the 
agency about its nuclear program and to stop enriching uranium. The Russians 
have been pressing Iran to take some sort of pause in its uranium enrichment 
that might allow the Security Council sanction process to halt and bring Iran 
back to the negotiating table.

³The clock must be stopped; Iran must freeze uranium enrichment,² Mr. Ivanov 
said. ³The U.N. Security Council will then take a break, too, and the parties 
would gather at the negotiating table.²

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has also 
called for a ³pause,² noting that even a brief suspension of enrichment would be
enough to get the United States to the negotiating table with Iran under an 
offer that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made in May.

The Bushehr nuclear project has a long history. For more than a decade, Russia 
has been working under a $1 billion contract to complete the plant, which began 
with Germany during the time of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. After the 1979 
revolution, the project was halted; then the site was bombed by Iraq during its 
eight-year war with Iran. When Iran decided to complete the facility after the 
war ended, Germany, under pressure from the United States, refused to finish it,
or even provide Moscow with the original blueprints.

The project ‹ already eight years behind schedule ‹ is now almost complete. Last
year, Russia agreed to ship low-enriched fuel to the plant by March 2007 and 
start it in September, with electricity generation to start by November.

But in mid-February, Russia said Iran had not made the last two $25 million 
monthly payments after insisting that it be allowed to pay in euros instead of 
dollars. Russian officials cited a delay in the delivery of safety equipment 
from an unspecified third country as another reason for the decision.

Iranian officials denied that payments had been delayed. ³Iran has had no delay 
whatsoever in making payments for the Bushehr nuclear power plant,² Mohammad 
Saeedi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was quoted by 
Iran¹s state-run news agency IRNA as saying after the Russian claim.

³We would be crazy at this late date to endanger the project by not paying,² the
official said. ³There is no financial problem. The Russians want to use this 
issue as a bargaining chip.²

David E. Sanger and Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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