Russia: ‘Counterproductive’ to threaten Iran with sanctions

(JTA) — Russia believes it is "counterproductive" to threaten Iran with more sanctions, its foreign minister said.

Sergey Lavrov made the statement following a meeting Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who made the trip to Moscow to encourage Russia to agree to ratchet up sanctions on the Islamic Republic if it does not show that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

“Our position is that at this stage all efforts should be made to support the negotiating process,” Lavrov said. “Sanctions and the threat of pressure in the current situation are counterproductive in our view.”

Clinton said the United States agreed that the diplomatic track with Iran should be pursued "vigorously," but added that it is important to start considering new sanctions. Iran is currently under three sets of United Nations sanctions.

Iran has made the case that it is entitled to enrich uranium for peaceful, domestic programs.

The United States and several Western nations believe that Iran may be close to being capable of building a nuclear weapon. The belief was reinforced last month when Iran told U.N. nuclear inspectors last month that it is building an underground uranium enrichment plant.

Iran agreed last week to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to visit the secret underground Qom site and to send most of its low-enriched uranium to Russia for further enrichment.

Clinton was scheduled to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev later Tuesday.

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