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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Excessive' Sanctions For Tehran Opposed

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia opposed "excessive" sanctions against its economic partner Iran, as the UN Security Council prepared to debate sanctions meant to curtail Tehran's uranium-enrichment program.

Lavrov also stressed that Russia had not issued Iran any ultimatums whereby Moscow said it would not deliver nuclear fuel for Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant unless Tehran complied with the United Nations' wishes.

"There is no link whatsoever between the UN resolution ... and the implementation of the Bushehr project," Lavrov said in an address at the State Duma.

European and U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said Tuesday that Moscow had bluntly told Tehran it would not ship fuel for Bushehr until Tehran freezes its uranium enrichment work.

Lavrov dismissed the claims as a "trick."

"It's not the first time that we are seeing such an unscrupulous approach aimed at driving a wedge between us and Iran," he said.

Lavrov said Russia "will not support excessive sanctions against Iran," adding that a draft resolution on the new sanctions before the Security Council has been softened at Moscow's behest.

Security Council member nations are hoping to draw Iran back into negotiations over its nuclear program, which the United States and other countries fear is aimed at the development of atomic weapons. Iran says it only wants to generate nuclear power.

Russia has said fuel for the Bushehr plant would not be supplied this month, as had been planned, because of Iranian payment delays. The delays, Moscow says, prompted it to postpone indefinitely the reactor's launch, which had been set for this September. Russian officials also said the number of workers at Bushehr had dwindled due to the funding shortage.

Iran angrily denied falling behind in payments and accused Russia of caving in to U.S. pressure to take a tougher line. Iranian state television on Tuesday described Russia as an "unreliable partner."

In his Duma speech, Lavrov also accused Washington of resorting to its old ways in pressuring European states into hosting parts of its anti-missile shield.

"This is how they acted in past times, during the Cold War," he said, "when they scared everyone with the Soviet threat and persuaded everybody to group together in a disciplined block."

Washington plans to install warning radars and missile batteries in Poland and the Czech Republic as part of a plan designed to counter future long-range rocket attacks by hostile states such as Iran or North Korea.

Moscow has strongly attacked the plan, saying Iran does not possess long-range missiles and charging that the shield threatens Russia's security ­instead.

Lavrov on Wednesday also said Russia does not view the Commonwealth of Independent States as an "integration" tool, noting that some members of the loosely knit group did not sign its charter. (AP, Reuters, MT)