TEHRAN, Iran – Russia on Thursday said that Iran must respect an Aug. 31 deadline set by the U.N. Security Council for it to suspend uranium enrichment in order to avoid further steps against it.
In a terse statement apparently reflecting impatience in Moscow at the Iranian government's rejection of the Security Council demands, the Russian Foreign Ministry reminded Iran that as a member of the United Nations it had to implement Security Council resolutions.
"We are counting on Iran to heed the appeals made to it so that no further actions by the U.N. Security Council will be required," the statement said.
The Security Council passed a resolution Monday urging Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment by Aug. 31 or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.
The United States and some of its allies suspect Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran maintains its program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity. Enriched uranium can be used in both atomic bombs and civilian reactors.
But Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected the deadline, saying Tuesday that Tehran would not be pressured into stopping its nuclear program.
Russia as well as China — both veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council which have strong commercial ties with Iran — have so far resisted Western proposals to sanction Tehran.
Russia, which is a major weapons supplier to Tehran, is building the Islamic republic's first nuclear power plant in the southern port of Bushehr under an $800 million contract.
The Russian state company responsible for the Bushehr project, Atomstroiexport, said Thursday that construction was on schedule. "Work is being carried out as planned," it said in a statement. The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted a spokesman as saying that the first reactor at Bushehr was "95 percent ready."
While Moscow has moved closer to the West on Iran, it has rejected U.S. demands to halt work on Bushehr, which is now expected to go online in 2007. Officials had previously said it would be launched in 2006.