updated 11/1/2006 4:53:26 PM ET 2006-11-01T21:53:26

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow would not support a draft U.N. sanctions resolution on Iran proposed by European states, Russian news agencies reported.

Lavrov’s comments, the bluntest so far from Russia regarding the proposed text, underscored the difficulties major world powers are experiencing as they try to agree on a response to Iran’s defiance of U.N. calls to scale back its atomic work.

Iran, which says its nuclear intentions are peaceful, has vowed not to be cowed by the threat of U.N. action. A senior official warned on Wednesday Tehran may further scale back co-operation with U.N. inspectors if any sanctions are imposed.

The draft resolution drawn up for U.N. Security Council discussion by European states would outlaw most nuclear and missile cooperation with Iran and impose a travel ban on people responsible for and involved in its nuclear program.

“We cannot support those measures which in fact aim to isolate Iran from the outside world, including the isolation of the people who are charged with leading negotiations on the nuclear program,” news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying.

The resolution was drafted after Iran rejected repeated U.N. demands to scrap uranium enrichment, which can be used to make material for power stations or warheads.

U.S. calls threat worse than N. Korea
Washington had hoped to toughen up the resolution, with a senior U.S. official on Tuesday describing the situation as a more serious security threat than North Korea.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he was optimistic Russia would support a U.N. sanctions resolution.

“While there are still negotiations that will need to be had concerning the contents of the resolution, the process is moving forward and we hope that it will move forward with some speed,” he said.

Asked specifically about Lavrov’s comments that Moscow would not support the current draft resolution, he said: “All that means to me is that they have some changes to the draft on the table. Certainly that is understandable.”

Lavrov said Russia, one of five permanent U.N. Security Council members with veto powers, was “firmly determined” to help establish a dialogue with Iran on its nuclear program.

“We are working on the text of a resolution on Iran and we will try to focus it on the issues highlighted in the report by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” Lavrov said.

Lavrov said the issues that had yet to be clarified included “first and foremost, the uranium enrichment program, chemical processing and a heavy-water reactor.”

“These are the issues we will concentrate on,” he said.

Warnings from Tehran
In Tehran, Hassan Rohani, a moderate politician who led Iran’s nuclear negotiations until President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office last year, warned on Wednesday of consequences if the European text was approved.

“Iran will give a proper answer if they pass such a tough and bad resolution,” the students news agency ISNA quoted Rohani as saying.

“One of the possible answers could be limiting our cooperation with the IAEA,” said Rohani, a representative of Iran’s most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on the Supreme National Security Council.

Iran ended short-notice checks by IAEA inspectors in February after its case was sent back to the Security Council.

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