US raises Belarus, Russia cancels Iran N-meeting

Iran Materials 13 December 2006 16:14 (UTC +04:00)

(IranMania) - Talks on Iran's nuclear ambitions were abruptly called off because of Russian anger at the United States for raising a hunger strike by a jailed opposition politician in Belarus, Reuters reported.

US envoy William Brencick raised a hunger strike by a jailed opposition politician in Belarus during a closed-door UN Security Council session on the Ivory Coast and Lebanon, reports Trend.

He told colleagues they should keep an eye on the Belarus government's lack of freedom of expression, American and other diplomats at the session said.

In response, Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the issue had nothing to do with the council's business and showed anything can be raised in the 15-member body, the envoys quoted him as saying.

"It wasn't the best timing by the US," said Britain's UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry.

Meanwhile, China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya, who showed up for a separate Iran meeting among six key nations, told reporters he had complained the session on a resolution imposing sanctions on Tehran had been rescheduled three times.

"So I asked for some respect," Wang said. "Then our colleague from Russia joined and said he would get instructions on the issue" of Belarus.

Then everyone left, Wang said.

Russian diplomats said Churkin felt the Iran talks would not be constructive after Belarus was raised in the Security Council. But diplomats expected the talks to be rescheduled in hopes of reaching agreement by Christmas.

Britain, France and Germany have revised a resolution backed by the United States that would impose sanctions on materials and technology that could be used in nuclear weapons, uranium reprocessing work and heavy-water reactors.

But Russia, which has veto power on the council, still objects to a travel ban and a freeze of assets of leading Iranian agencies, businesses and individual involved in the country's nuclear program.

On Belarus, the United States, on instructions from Washington, raised the plight of Alexander Kozulin, one of two opposition figures to run against President Alexander Lukashenko in his bid for re-election last March.

He was jailed for 5-1/2 years for organizing mass rallies after official results gave the president a landslide victory. Kozulin ended a 53-day hunger strike on Tuesday.

"This highlights the situation in Belarus, concerning the lack of democracy in the heart of Europe," a US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We have never shied away from raising issues of fundamental freedom and political expression."