Russia has rejected European-proposed UN sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to halt its suspected nuclear weapons drive, but Moscow appears to be applying its own pressure by threatening to delay a key nuclear power project.
Analysts say the Kremlin is determined not to push Iran into a corner like North Korea -- blaming tough US policies for Pyongyang's recent nuclear test -- but Tehran's refusal to compromise has led to growing impatience in Moscow despite the two countries' close commercial ties.
On Wednesday, a planned visit to Moscow by Iran's foreign minister was abruptly postponed, a move seen as a diplomatic snub reflecting Iranian annoyance at Russian hints of a delay to the construction of the country's first nuclear power station.
Manouchehr Mottaki had been scheduled to hold talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Moscow during a two-day visit due to start yesterday. But the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a terse statement that the visit had been postponed until a later date.
Later on Wednesday, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said on Iranian television that he would travel to Moscow within "the next day or two" for talks including nuclear issues.
Experts say that Moscow could be using its US$1 billion contract to build the plant in the southern city of Bushehr as a lever of pressure on Tehran.
"Russia is not ready to support fully fledged sanctions against Iran but it is looking for ways to convince the Iranians to be more transparent in their nuclear research activities," said Anton Khlopkov, deputy director of the Moscow-based PIR Center, which specializes in nonproliferation.
The announcement that Mottaki's trip was postponed came after a senior Russian nuclear official said on Wednesday that Russia would shortly review the timetable for completing construction of Bushehr, which has already been repeated delayed.
In September, Russia agreed to ship fuel to Bushehr by March next year and launch the facility in September, adding to the concerns of the US and others over Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Fuel from the plant potentially could be diverted and used to produce bombs.
But on Tuesday an unidentified Russian nuclear industry official was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies that Russia could postpone the timetable if Iran fails to meet unspecified commitments. According to ITAR-Tass, the official said one of the problems is that Iran has not adhered to a payment schedule.
Russia, which along with China has the right of veto as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has been the main obstacle to efforts by Western nations to punish Iran for its refusal to halt sensitive uranium enrichment activity.
Last week, Moscow proposed major amendments weakening the European draft resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran.
There are growing concerns for the health of Rokia Traore, a Malian singer who has been on hunger strike at the Fleury-Merogis Prison near Paris since she was arrested on March 10 on allegations of kidnapping her daughter in a child custody dispute. “I am very worried,” said Kenneth Feliho, her lawyer. “She is only drinking. She has not been eating for over a week and her immune system is weak.” Among those calling for the musician’ release are African stars including Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour and Angelique Kidjo. Damon Albarn, who performed with her in the group Africa Express, wrote: “We demand,
FATAL IDEA: The nation’s drugs regulator is curbing use of hydroxychloroquine, which Donald Trump has promoted for its alleged potential to treat COVID-19 Australia’s drug regulator has been forced to restrict powers to prescribe a drug undergoing clinical trials to treat COVID-19, because doctors have been inappropriately prescribing it to themselves and their family members, despite potentially deadly side effects. The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the similar compound chloroquine are currently used mostly for patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, but stocks in Australia have been diminished thanks to global publicity — including from US President Donald Trump — about the potential of the drug to treat COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have potentially severe and even deadly side effects if used inappropriately, including
Female flight attendants working for Japan Airlines would next month be allowed to wear trousers and abandon high heels, the company said on Thursday, after a feminist campaign took off. The airline became one of the first major Japanese firms to announce the shift after a campaign known as #KuToo last year rejected mandatory high heels at work, drawing more than 32,000 signatures in an online petition. The campaign is part of a wider feminism movement in Japan, with Japan Airlines saying that the new policy was aimed at boosting a “diverse working environment.” PANTS PERMIT “This will be the first time to introduce
TARGETED: Although hackers are known to be seeking to capitalize on concern over COVID-19, a cybersecurity expert said he had never seen anything to this extent before Elite hackers tried to break into the WHO earlier this month, sources said, part of what a senior agency official said was a more than two-fold increase in cyberattacks. The identity of the hackers was unclear and the effort was unsuccessful, WHO Chief Information Security Officer Flavio Aggio said. However, he warned that hacking attempts against the agency and its partners have soared as they battle to contain COVID-19, which has killed more than 15,000 worldwide. The attempted break-in at the WHO was first flagged to Reuters by Alexander Urbelis, a cybersecurity expert and attorney with the New York-based Blackstone Law Group,