Nuclear impasse blocks effective cooperation with Iran - senator

Iran Materials 16 June 2006 11:57 (UTC +04:00)

(RIA Novosti) - Russian-Iranian cooperation within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will have bright prospects if Iran allays the West's concerns over its nuclear programs, a senior member of Russia's upper house of parliament said Thursday.

Given the international furor over its controversial nuclear programs, Iran, which is a SCO observer, was one of the dominant themes at a summit of the group in Shanghai today, reports Trend.

"The [SCO] format enables us to reach agreements and solutions to maintain regional political and economic stability without pressure from the United States or the European Union," said Mikhail Margelov, the chairman of the Federation Council's international affairs committee.

But he said the future of cooperation with Iran depended on resolving its nuclear problem.

Iran's nuclear programs have been a source of major controversy since the beginning of the year, as many countries suspect the Islamic Republic of pursuing a covert weapons program under the pretext of civilian research, despite its claims to the contrary. Russia proposed setting up a joint venture with Iran to enrich uranium on Russian soil as a solution to the problem, which the Islamic Republic, however, has neither accepted nor rejected.

"The proposal on uranium enrichment in Russia is still in force," the senator said. "Iran has the right to develop peaceful nuclear technologies but only after it has proven the research cannot be used for military purposes."

Margelov said that Iran could not expect further progress in Russian-Iranian relations until the international community's fears were allayed. "There will be no stability in long-term political and economic relations while the controversy exists," he said.

The SCO, celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The leaders of Iran, Pakistan, India and Mongolia, which currently have observer status in the group but have expressed interest in becoming full members, are also attending this year's summit.

Margelov highlighted the significance of bilateral cooperation in the oil and gas sector, which he said could enhance both countries' positions on the world market, and in maintaining regional stability and combating drug-trafficking and terrorism.

The U.S. criticized an invitation extended to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the summit. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld slammed the organization at the start of the month for inviting "the leading terrorist nation in the world" into "an organization that says it's against terror."

But stressing that Iran's attendance at the summit was an important contribution to the group's development, the senator said stability in Central Asia was unattainable without Iran.

"By stepping up relations with this country, SCO member states are not conducting an anti-American policy, but are accomplishing crucial geopolitical objectives for the region," Margelov said.