Iran under pressure

MOSCOW – The presidents of Russia and China yesterday called on Iran to fulfill the U.N. Security Council’s demands over its disputed nuclear program – a sign of impatience from Iran’s two closest allies over its continued defiance.

The joint call from Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao came a day after Iran announced it was partially suspending cooperation with the International Aromic Energy Agency in response to the latest Security Council sanctions – a decision the United States said was a “step in the wrong direction.”

Iran insisted it was not aiming to escalate the standoff with its partial suspension, which truncates the time period in which it will notify the U.N. about new nuclear projects.

“Iran is not after adventurism. It does not want to violate international measures,” said Kazem Jalali, the spokesman of parliament’s committee on foreign policy and national security.

In their joint statement, Putin and Hu said their countries – permanent, veto-wielding Security Council members – were ready to “search for a comprehensive, long-term and mutually acceptable solution to the Iranian nuclear problem.” They also emphasized that the increasingly tense dispute should be resolved “exclusively through peaceful means.”

Russia and China have significant trade ties with Iran and have used their veto power to push for less stringent sanctions against their ally. That stance has often put them at odds with the other veto powers, the United States, Britain and France, which favor a touger approach to the nuclear dispute.

But the two joined the rest of the Security Council on Saturday in voting to impose the new sanctions – the second in three months against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. The sanctions included the banning of Iranian arms exports and the freezing of assets of 28 people and organizations involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

Iran rejected the sanctions and later announced a partial suspension of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Its hard line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the latest U.N. sanctions would not halt the country’s uranium enrichment “even for a second.”

Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, yesterday renewed an offer from six world powers to negotiate differences with Iran over its nuclear ambitions in a phone call with the country’s top atomic negotiator, but the two sides came no closer to bridging differences, said Cristina Gallach, Solana’s spokeswoman.

Ali Larijani, Iran’s senior nuclear envoy accepted “an invitation for future contacts” with Solana, she told The Associated Press.