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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow: U.S. Can't Veto Trade With Iran

Russia dismissed Thursday Washington's threat to impose new sanctions over arms sales to Iran, a hot topic in U.S. presidential elections, and said Moscow alone would choose its trade partners.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, speaking in Poland after a two-day visit, made no direct reference to Moscow's decision to drop a 1995 deal with the United States under which it was to end sales of conventional weapons to Iran.

But he made clear Moscow would stand for no interference in pursuing its trade interests, dismissing a U.S. list including Iran among states alleged to sponsor terrorism along with Cuba, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

In Moscow, Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said Russia would observe international law and never supply Iran with weapons of mass destruction.

"Russia bases its acts on close adherence to its international commitments, also in the case of Iran. We will continue to do so," Ivanov told reporters in response to a question about the deal.

Sergeyev said: "We fulfill all international requirements on nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

Neither man mentioned the ruptured deal with Washington.

Officials also remained silent on reports that sanctions might be forthcoming after Ivanov told U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright of Russia's intention to renounce the deal — four days before the still unresolved U.S. election.

The deal, signed in 1995 by U.S. Vice President Al Gore and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, barred Russia from signing new contracts for Iranian purchases of conventional weapons.

Interfax, quoting unidentified sources, said Russia's renunciation of the deal was linked to "positive changes in Iran's internal political situation."

The sources said the United States had violated the accord by publicly disclosing its terms and referred to supplies of U.S.-made arms acquired by Taliban authorities in Afghanistan, viewed by Moscow as a source of destabilization in the region.

Russia this month overhauled its arms export structures to try to boost revenues in competitive markets.

At stake are frozen contracts and expansion into big new deals. Tehran is interested in assembling Russian hardware under license, like the MiG-29 fighter and T-72C tank.

Members of the State Duma said the move reasserted an independent foreign policy.

"Observing this agreement no longer serves our interests and any attempt to impose sanctions would be groundless under international law," Konstantin Kosachev, deputy head of the Duma's foreign affairs committee, said.

  • In Warsaw, where Ivanov's trip marked the first visit by Russia's top diplomat in four years, Russia and Poland took the first steps Thursday toward ending a decade of mutual mistrust and flagging economic relations between the former Cold War allies.

    Ivanov, who met with Polish counterpart Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, said the talks had brought the countries closer to a new chapter in mutual relations, which have been tense ever since Poland shed communism in 1989 and escaped Moscow's domination.

    Polish diplomats said that Ivanov's trip indicated that Moscow had come to terms with Poland's NATO entry last year and was trying to attach itself to Poland as a future member of the European Union.

    Ivanov said that an improved political atmosphere should translate into big economic deals for the two countries, such as the planned construction by gas giant Gazprom of a large pipeline to Western Europe across Poland.

    Poland has reservations about the project because the pipeline will bypass Ukraine, Warsaw's strategic ally. Russia has accused Ukraine of stealing gas from pipelines that run through its territory.

    "This will be Poland's sovereign decision. It is good if we have a deal. But we have alternative solutions," Ivanov said.

    Neither official commented on Gazprom's controversial addition of fiber-optic cable to the pipeline, which is of sufficient capacity to potentially seize all telecommunications traffic between Russia and Western Europe.