REPORTING FROM YAROSLAVL, RUSSIA -- Russia slammed the new package of sanctions against Iran approved Monday by the European Union, saying it was unlikely to make the Islamic Republic give up its nuclear program and may prove counterproductive.
The 27-member EU, the second-largest market for Iranian oil, announced a boycott to pressure the Islamic Republic to resume negotiations. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. The U.S. and many of its Western European allies suspect it of trying to build atomic weapons.
In a tough-worded statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry called the EU move “deeply erroneous."
“Under such kind of pressure Iran will make no concessions and no correction of its policy,” it said. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that there was nothing to prove that Iran was trying to build an atomic weapon.
Experts say Moscow's policy on Iran, as well as its opposition to increased international pressure against Syria's crackdown on opponents of President Bashar Assad, reflects a eagerness to confront the West because of its criticism of irregularities in voting for parliament last month. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is trying to reclaim the presidency in March elections.
“What is quite clear is that Russia doesn’t want to act on the issue in accord with the West,” said Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy head of the USA and Canada Institute think tank. "As the presidential election in Moscow is getting closer, the anti-Western rhetoric is increasing.”
-- Sergei L. Loiko
Photo: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives at his annual news conference in Moscow on Jan. 18. Lavrov warned that an attack on Iran would cause a catastrophe and said U.S. and European Union sanctions against Tehran were aimed at fomenting popular discontent by strangling the economy. Credit: Maxim Shipenkov / European Pressphoto Agency