Russia shifts stance on Iran, Ahmadinejad defiant

Tue Dec 1, 2009 3:27pm EST
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By Oleg Shchedrov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will join any consensus on more sanctions against Iran, a senior Russian diplomatic source said on Tuesday after Tehran declared it would expand nuclear activity in defiance of a U.N. rebuke.

It was a thinly veiled Russian warning to Iran of waning patience with its failure to allay fears it aims to develop atom bombs in secret, and hinted that Iran could no longer rely on Russia to stop tougher world action against it.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad voiced defiance on Tuesday, saying sanctions would have no effect and that no more talks on the nuclear dispute were needed with the West. Speaking on state television, he also criticized Russian action.

Governors of the U.N. nuclear agency passed a resolution on Friday censuring Iran for covertly constructing a second enrichment plant near the holy city of Qom, in addition to its IAEA-monitored one at Natanz, and demanding a construction halt.

Tehran said on Sunday it would build 10 more uranium enrichment sites -- a pledge that Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday was "not a bluff".

Iran's announcement had been in retaliation for the 25-3 vote by the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation Board of Governors, which sailed through with unusual Russian and Chinese support.

"If there is a consensus on Iran sanctions, we will not stand aside," said the Russian diplomatic source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation.

By referring to "consensus", Russia could be leaving itself an escape hatch since China has been the most resistant to punitive steps against Iran among the six world powers.   Continued...

<p>Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends a news conference in Brasilia in this November 23, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes</p>