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Iran Breaks UN Resolutions on Nuclear Program, Russia Says

Iran is breaching United Nations resolutions and increasing the size of its nuclear program amid an “alarming” escalation in global rhetoric toward its atomic plans, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

“The scale of the Iranian nuclear program is expanding,” Ryabkov said yesterday in an interview in New Delhi. This “is in direct violation of UN resolutions.”

The so-called BRICS group of major emerging nations that met yesterday in India said the situation in Iran can’t “be allowed to escalate into conflict,” according to a communique. Iran faces growing economic and financial sanctions over its nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies say is a cover for making atomic weapons. Iran says it’s for civilian purposes.

Ryabkov’s comments “are eyebrow-raising to say the least,” according to ING Groep NV economist Simon Quijano-Evans, who notes that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked Russia this month to warn Iran it has one last chance to reach a negotiated settlement over its nuclear program, according to a March 14 report in Russia’s Kommersant newspaper.

“There is clearly more going on behind the scenes than meets our eye,” Quijano-Evans said today by e-mail from London.

A military confrontation over the nation’s nuclear plans would trigger a new global economic crisis, Ryabkov said, adding that he doesn’t rule out strikes against Iran by countries such as Israel.

Energy-Price ‘Explosion’

The BRICS group is worried that a failure to reach a political agreement will lead to “an explosion of energy prices with a subsequent slowdown in the economic recovery and a collapse in energy prices soon after that,” Ryabkov said.

“An escalation is under way, and that’s very alarming,” he said of the global outcry against Iran. “In that sense, the situation is worse than last year.”

A new round of talks over Iran’s disputed nuclear program should begin by mid-April, according to Ryabkov. The situation there isn’t “irreversible” and the Iranians “have done a lot to show their constructiveness,” he said, adding that world powers “shouldn’t be tempted into using military force.”

Russia “seems to be sending a pretty clear signal to Iran that they are walking a tightrope, and face a clear and now present danger of a strike by Israel, and possibly its allies,” Tim Ash, chief emerging-markets economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, said yesterday in an e-mailed comment.

Inspection Opportunity

Iran is ready to cooperate and the International Atomic Energy Agency should use the opportunity to examine the country’s facilities, Ryabkov said.

Iran has rejected UN demands to suspend uranium enrichment, which can be used for both generating electricity and making nuclear warheads. Negotiations broke down last January after talks in Istanbul between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- China, France, Russia, the U.K. and U.S. -- as well as Germany.

The international community isn’t working hard enough “to make the talks a really serious issue,” Ryabkov said, adding that sanctions imposed on Iran have only spurred the country’s efforts to develop its nuclear program.

“Some of our Western partners think more sanctions are like amulets that will protect them from evil spirits. That’s irrational,” he said. “Sanctions don’t take us to any result. They have a counter result. Sanctions are only suffocating Iran’s economy.”

While Russia opposes military action or increased sanctions in Iran, it backed European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton’s call this month for the nation to reach a “full settlement,” clarifying questions about its nuclear program.

Russia opposes Iran developing nuclear-weapons capability because it would endanger global stability and “is taking into account” objections by Arab nations to supplies of conventional weaponry to Iran, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Feb. 24.

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