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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Could Back Sanctions for Tehran

A top security official and a senior lawmaker suggested Tuesday that Moscow could back a draft UN Security Council resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran, despite Russia's long-held opposition to punishing Tehran.

"The Russian political leadership will apparently have to join a new resolution on Iran proposed by Britain, Germany and France that envisages limited economic sanctions," Yury Volkov, a deputy speaker of the State Duma, said in a statement.

Volkov has played a low-key role in the past and made no statements on global politics, although he is in charge of inter-parliamentary contacts with Iran. He belongs to the United Russia party. It is unclear whether he has any access to Kremlin decision making.

But United Nations Security Council chief Igor Ivanov made comments later that suggested Moscow could support the draft European resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

"Resolutions and sanctions are not a goal in themselves. They are just one of the elements," Ivanov told a news conference. "And if such a resolution is worked out, it will be first of all be one of the elements aimed at assisting political negotiations.

"Any decision in the Security Council must be aimed not at punishing Iran but at achieving our goals through political means," Ivanov said. The goal, he said, is to preserve Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy while ensuring it does not develop nuclear weapons.

Ivanov's comments suggested that Russia, which is wary of angering Iran by appearing to join the West in calls for punishment, could cast support for limited sanctions as a path toward further talks.

"Russia continues to call for a political settlement," he said.

Russia and China, both veto-wielding Security Council members with strong commercial ties to Tehran, have consistently been reluctant to support sanctions.

But Volkov said "the Iranian leadership's refusal to freeze uranium enrichment activities and engage in a constructive dialogue with leading global powers leaves no chance for a quick diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear problem."

At the same time, he said Russia would continue efforts to encourage talks between Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, and the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, "so that Iran isn't driven into a corner."

He also repeated Russia's firm opposition to any decisions that could lead to the use of military force against Iran.