Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Russia Warns Against Iran War

MOSCOW -- Russian deputy foreign minister Alexander Losyukov has warned that any US military intervention in Iran would be a "political error" that would have "catastrophic" consequences.

Losyukov's comments in an interview published Tuesday came after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned that the world should prepare for a possible conflict over Iran's nuclear program.

"Generally speaking, bombings of Iran would be a bad move that would end with catastrophic consequences," Losyukov told the daily Vremya Novosti.

Losyukov said Moscow remains "convinced that there is no military solution to the Iranian problem", calling a military solution as "impossible".

"Besides, it is quite clear that there is no military solution to the Iraq problem either. But in the case of Iran everything could be even more complicated," he said.

The deputy minister said the use of force would only "worsen the situation in the Middle East" and "bring a very negative reaction from the Muslim world".

"Of course I cannot know what is being thought in the United States," Losyukov said, but their military intervention in Iran "would be a big diplomatic and political error".

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Monday tensions with Iran were now "extreme", heightening a diplomatic storm caused by Kouchner's war warning on Sunday.

Mohamed ElBaradei, chief UN nuclear inspector, condemned France's stance and urged Iran's harshest critics to learn the lessons of Iraq and not attack Tehran.

He said on Monday that such options should only be considered as a last resort and if authorized by the UN Security Council.

ElBaradei also called on nations critical of his nuclear deal with Tehran to "hold their horses'' until the end of the year.

ElBaradei, speaking Monday outside a 144-nation meeting of his International Atomic Energy Agency, invoked the example of Iraq in urging an end to the threats of force against Iran.

Meanwhile, Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik condemned the comments of her French counterpart Bernard Kouchner.

"My colleague Kouchner is the only one who can tell you what he meant. (But) I can't comprehend why he is resorting to such martial rhetoric at this time," Plassnik said on the sidelines of an IAEA meeting in Vienna.

"I am for continued work towards a negotiated solution. I'm convinced that a negotiated solution can be reached," she said.

On Monday, US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said the US remained "determined to use diplomacy" to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff.

"We have said all along the United States government position has been that we are determined to use diplomacy to resolve this matter," Bodman told reporters at a meeting in Vienna of the IAEA.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates had said Sunday that the US would stick to diplomatic and economic pressure to force Iran to halt its nuclear drive, but "all options are on the table".