Russia sys Obama must restore Iran ties to win nuclear accord

Iran Materials 28 November 2008 03:25 (UTC +04:00)

Russia said U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will have to normalize relations with Iran to reach an agreement over its nuclear program, reiterating opposition to further sanctions against the Islamic republic, TehranTimes reported.

Russian officials are in contact with the incoming Obama administration to urge it to engage Iran diplomatically, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Moscow.

The U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Iran after students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans for 444 days. Obama has pledged to pursue "direct diplomacy without preconditions" with Iran, something the current Republican administration has refused to do.

"We definitely favor dialogue and political effort," Ryabkov said. "Sanctions are counterproductive." Asked if Obama would have to normalize ties with Iran to reach an agreement over the nuclear dispute, he replied: "Yes, absolutely."

Russia has refused to back a fourth round of United Nations sanctions against Iran since falling out with the West over its August war with Georgia.

The U.S. and its European allies claim Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Russia, which is close to completing the Persian Gulf state's first nuclear reactor, says there is no evidence of a weapons program. Iran has rejected UN demands to stop enriching uranium.

As a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation regime Iran is legally entitled to enrich for civilian uses.

Adjusting to the election of Barack Obama, some Israeli policymakers and analysts are now saying that talking to Iran might be a better way than isolating it, the Washington Times reported.

Support for a U.S. diplomatic boycott of Tehran has been the dominant Israeli approach for years.

Israeli politicians have neglected the fact that Iran has not invaded any neighboring countries, the Times reported.

Israeli politicians suggested prior to Obama's election that talks would be a hopeless exercise in appeasement, but Israel's chief of army intelligence said last week that talking could yield strategic benefits for Israel.

"Rapprochement with Iran, while insisting on clearly defined parameters for the halting of the Iranian nuclear program, isn't necessarily negative," Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin said at a Tel Aviv University lecture. "If it succeeds, it will stop the Iranian nuclear program, and if it fails, it will strengthen the understanding that sanctions and the diplomatic efforts against Iran must be bolstered."

Some analysts believe the unusual political comment from a military intelligence chief reflects an effort by Israelis to get on the same page with the incoming administration, rather than be seen as a potential spoiler.

"He (Obama) wants to begin diplomatically, and no one wants to fight that. Israel is quickly falling into line," said Alon Liel, a former Foreign Ministry official. "There is a decision in the Israeli system that Obama's Iran policy shouldn't be viewed as an anti-Israeli move."