February 24, 2012, 1:52 PM ESTBy Stepan Kravchenko
(Updates with comments from Putin starting in second paragraph.)
Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) — Russia opposes Iran developing nuclear-weapons capability because it would endanger global stability, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said.
Russia is against expanding “the nuclear club” and “is taking into account” objections by Arab nations to supplies of conventional weaponry to Iran, according to Putin, who’s seeking to return as Russia’s president in March 4 elections.
“We’re not interested in Iran becoming a nuclear power,” he said today in the town of Sarov, 530 kilometers (331 miles) east of Moscow, where the Soviet Union developed its first atomic weapon. “It would lead to greater risks to international stability.”
The U.S. and its European allies accuse Iran of seeking atomic weapons while the Persian Gulf nation’s leaders say they only want energy and industrial applications from nuclear technology. Iran “dismissed” United Nations atomic inspectors’ concerns over possible nuclear-weapons work and tripled its quarterly rate of producing 20 percent-enriched uranium, the International Atomic Energy Agency said today in an 11-page restricted document obtained by Bloomberg News.
The progress made by Iran’s nuclear program is “more alarming for Russia than for many other countries,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in comments published Feb. 15 on the ministry’s website.
Even so, Russia sees no evidence that the Persian Gulf state is developing nuclear-weapons capability, Ryabkov said. It won’t back sanctions that seek regime change in Iran and favors a negotiated settlement, he added.
The West is seeking to bring about regime change in Iran under the guise of stamping out its nuclear-arms ambitions, Putin said today.
Separately, he accused the U.S. of “shying away” from negotiations over its planned missile-defense system, parts of which may be stationed in eastern Europe.
“They don’t want to talk to us seriously,” Putin said. “They’re shying away.”
Russia will have to develop an asymmetric response to counter the U.S. system in Europe to maintain the balance of power, Putin told a meeting with military commanders in southern Russia, according to a copy of his speech posted yesterday on the government’s website.
“The anti-ballistic missile treaty on one hand and the restriction of offensive weapons act on the other hand created this balance, which was particularly shaped in the international legal form,” Putin said. “Americans demolished one of these walls. What should we do? We have to either create our own missile defense or give some kind of asymmetric answer.”
–With assistance from Henry Meyer in Moscow and Jonathan Tirone in Vienna. Editors: Andrew Langley, Balazs Penz
To contact the reporter on this story: Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at firstname.lastname@example.org
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