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Russia-Iran Talks Focus on Mideast Conflict


Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi winds up a two-day visit to Russia, where talks have focused on the escalating Israeli-Palestinian conflict and bilateral trade.

The escalating violence in the Middle East figured prominently in talks between Mr. Kharazi and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Mr. Ivanov called on Israel and the Palestinians to immediately implement the latest U.N. resolutions.

Mr. Ivanov said if they fail to do that the Security Council would have to consider other measures to make the two sides adhere to the resolutions.

Mr. Ivanov did not specify what those "other measures" might be.

The U.N. Security Council has passed resolutions in the past week calling on Israel to withdraw its troops from Palestinian areas "without delay" and calling on Israel and the Palestinians to implement a "meaningful" cease-fire.

Mr. Kharazi said "all means" should be used to stop Israeli military action against the Palestinians. He stopped short of endorsing a call by Iraq to impose an oil embargo against Israel and the United States. Mr. Kharazi said such a weapon would be useful only if all Muslim oil exporters agreed to it.

The situation in the Middle East also came up during talks between Mr. Kharazi and President Vladimir Putin. In recent days, the Russian leader has expressed alarm over the escalating violence.

Russia is a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process, alongside the United States. But Moscow's role has been largely overshadowed by Washington. Mr. Kharazi said Iran would welcome greater involvement by Russia and the European Union in trying to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

During his two days of talks in Moscow, Mr. Kharazi has also discussed a variety of other issues. Iran is eager for Russia to speed up work on the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran. The project is a lucrative one amounting to almost one billion dollars. But, it has also angered the United States, which fears the plant could be used to develop nuclear weapons. Russia and Iran have dismissed the U.S. concerns saying the reactor will be under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency and would be used only for civilian purposes.

Iran also wants to purchase conventional weapons from Russia. A move also opposed by Washington.

In January President Bush described Iran as part of an "axis of evil" and Washington has repeatedly accused Iran of seeking to purchase and develop weapons of mass destruction and of sponsoring terrorism. Iran has vehemently denied the charges.

Speaking at Moscow's Institute for International Relations, Mr. Kharazi in turn accused the United States of using the September 11 terrorist attacks in order to impose itself on the world. He denounced what he called Washington's "new imperialism."

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