Condoleezza Rice yesterday defended the tough new US sanctions imposed on Iran for its refusal to abandon its nuclear programme. The US Secretary of State also sought to play down differences with Russia over the best way to contain Tehran.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has questioned the wisdom of the unilateral measures announced by Washington on Thursday, specifically targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran, its elite Quds force and 20 institutions linked to it, including four Iranian banks. The US accuses the Revolutionary Guard of spreading weapons of mass destruction and the Quds force of fostering terrorism.
Ms Rice conceded that the US "may have some tactical differences" with Russia but insisted that both countries were united in seeking to restrain Iran's nuclear ambitions. "A nuclear weapon in the hands of the Iranian regime would be deeply destabilising and we can't sit idly by," she said.
But Mr Putin, who has resisted efforts to push further international sanctions through the UN Security Council, asked yesterday: "Why should we make the situation worse?"
He compared the Bush administration to "mad people wielding razor blades".
The Chinese Foreign Ministry also raised objections last night, saying the sanctions "only complicated" matters and adding that "dialogue and negotiations are the best approach".
Iran, which insists its nuclear research is aimed only at peaceful energy generation, reacted with scorn.
Mohammad Ali Hosseini, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said: "The hostile American policies towards the respectable people of Iran and the country's legal institutions are contrary to international law, without value and - as in the past - doomed to failure." ( Independent )