MOSCOW (AP) Russia's foreign minister on Thursday signaled Russian opposition to a draft U.N. Security Council resolution proposed by European nations that would impose sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
Russian news agencies reported Sergey Lavrov as saying the resolution, which imposes limited sanctions on Iran because of its refusal to cease uranium enrichment, is a departure from existing agreements between major powers.
Russia and China, veto-wielding permanent members of the council that have strong commercial ties with Tehran, have been reluctant to support sanctions against Iran.
``Our goal is to eliminate the risks of sensitive technologies getting into the hands of Iran until the IAEA (the International Atomic Energy Agency) clarifies issues of interest to it, while maintaining all possible channels of communication with Iran,'' Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted as saying by Interfax, RIA-Novosti and ITAR-Tass on a visit to the Russian far north.
``And it seems to me that, in this context, the draft resolution clearly does not correspond to those tasks agreed on by the six sides,'' he added.
The six major powers of United States, Russia, Germany, France, Britain and China have offered Iran incentives to halt uranium enrichment, but Tehran has rejected them. Enrichment can produce material for nuclear power reactors or weapons.
European nations this week proposed sanctions, banning the sale of missile and atomic technology to Iran and ending most U.N. help for its nuclear programs, after weeks of exploratory talks with an European Union negotiator ended without progress.
The sanctions impose limits on a Russian project to build Iran's first nuclear power station in the southwestern city of Bushehr.
Russia has consistently rejected U.S. demands to halt work on the $1 billion contract and last month it agreed to supply fuel for the plant in March 2007, enabling the facility to go online in September.
The United States has been pushing for even tougher sanctions, and Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said Wednesday there would be ``American changes to the proposed European text.'' He refused to elaborate.
The head of the Russian state company that is in charge of the Bushehr project said Thursday that it would completed on time.
``All work on the nuclear power station is being carried out in line with the existing timetable,'' Atomstroiexport's chief Sergei Shmatko was quoted as saying by ITAR-Tass.
Lavrov reiterated that Russia favors continued dialogue with Iran instead of punishment.
Moscow's aim is to ``create the conditions for the launch of a negotiated process to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem,'' he said, according to ITAR-Tass.