Israel Presses Russia Over Iran

APIsraeli security chief Giora Eiland and Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday
Israel's national security adviser pressed Russia on Wednesday on its intentions concerning the nuclear standoff between the West and Iran, but Tehran's ambassador to Moscow urged the Kremlin to resist what he called pressure from other countries.

An Israeli security delegation was in town for talks on Iran's nuclear program ahead of a visit by France's foreign minister, amid efforts to persuade Russia to back referring Tehran to the UN Security Council over its suspected nuclear weapons ambitions.

"We would like to understand the Russian position concerning Iran's plans. We are pleased that we can express our concerns over this issue," Israeli National Security chief Giora Eiland said at a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Itar-Tass reported.

The delegation, which also met with Security Council head Igor Ivanov and Federal Atomic Energy Agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko, hopes to win Russian support for referring the Iranian nuclear issue to the Security Council, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

A referral to the council, where Russia is a permanent, veto-wielding member, could lead to sanctions against Iran, which defied the international community last week by removing UN seals from its main uranium enrichment facility.

Iran on Wednesday said it was unlikely that Europe and the United States would succeed in referring it to the Security Council, and its president said the West should act with more "logic" in the standoff with his country.

Tehran's defiant tone came as France rejected Iran's request for a resumption of negotiations on the Islamic republic's nuclear program. Paris said Iran must first suspend its atomic activities.

Iran's ambassador to Russia, Gholamreza Ansari, meanwhile, reiterated that Tehran was still considering a Russian proposal designed to break the deadlock -- assurances that have met with skepticism in London.

He told Ekho Moskvy radio that Tehran hopes "Russia will stand up to ... the pressure against it." He said: "We know some countries [are] trying to deceive Russia with propaganda."

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, who was expected to arrive in the evening and hold talks with Russian officials Thursday, stressed the need for a united stance on Iran.

But Lavrov said Tuesday that Moscow believed it was too early to refer Tehran to the UN Security Council.

Lavrov criticized the prospect of Security Council sanctions against Iran and said there was still a chance the standoff could be resolved by diplomacy focusing on the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

European leaders are looking at how to proceed before a Feb. 2-3 emergency IAEA board meeting to discuss what action to take. A meeting Monday produced no agreement between France, Britain and Germany -- which have led negotiations with Iran for the European Union -- and Russia and China on whether to refer the dispute to the Security Council.

President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Tehran might still agree to Moscow's offer to move its uranium enrichment program to Russia, a step backed by the United States and EU as a way to resolve the deadlock.

"We haven't turned down this proposal," Ansari said Wednesday." The Iranian government is looking attentively at the proposal, but it needs time. So I think Russia should have a certain time to perfect this proposal."

Lavrov said negotiations with Iran on the initiative would take place in Russia around Feb. 16 -- long after the IAEA board meeting.