Israeli Officials: Russia Likely to Back Fresh Iran Sanctions
The UN Security Council could launch a fourth round of deliberations regarding sanctions on Iran as early as January, Israeli officials predicted this weekend. The United States, Great Britain, Germany and France will likely file a first draft to the Council next month, Israeli foreign policy officials and European and American diplomats told Haaretz.
Israeli officials' intensive talks with their Russian counterparts have led them to believe that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is more willing than ever before to advance additional sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Israeli and European authorities believe Russia's support virtually guarantees that new sanctions may be put in place. According to a senior Israeli official, "If Russia moves toward sanctions, the Chinese won't want to be left standing alone, and will have no other choice but to join as well."
Nonetheless, Israel is interested in drafting an alternative plan in case the Security Council debates do not progress.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in closed-door meetings that an effective sanctions package can be assembled through U.S.-EU cooperation, bolstered with assistance from regional powers like Japan and South Korea.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Saturday that his government is willing to adopt the United Nations recommendation and exchange most of its stock of enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods to power what it calls its research reactor, but only in keeping with its own timetable.
"We suggested in the first phase we give you 400 kilograms of 3.5-percent enriched uranium and you give us the equivalent in 20 percent uranium," the Associated Press quoted Mottaki as telling reporters at a regional security conference in Bahrain.
Mottaki said Iran would follow its own timetable and "mechanism," and suggested that the exchanges of uranium for fuel take place on Iran's Kish Island in the Persian Gulf.
The International Atomic Energy Agency proposed in October that Iran ship its uranium out of the country to be further refined by France and Russia and turned into fuel rods, which cannot be turned into weapons.
A U.S. court last year secretly froze more than $2 billion allegedly held for Iran in Citigroup Inc. accounts, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered Citibank to freeze the money in June 2008.