A European Union drive to haul Iran before the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear plans was in jeopardy on Wednesday following stiff opposition from Russia, which warned against escalating the standoff with Tehran.
The EU has circulated a draft resolution calling on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) governing board to report Iran's secretive nuclear programme to the Security Council, which could impose sanctions on Tehran.
But Russia, which as a permanent, veto-wielding member of the Council could block any action, warned against antagonising Iran, which Western countries suspect is developing atomic weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear energy programme, Reuters informs.
"While Iran is cooperating with the IAEA, while it is not enriching uranium and observing a moratorium, while IAEA inspectors are working in the country, it would be counter-productive to report this question to the U.N. Security Council," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted on Wednesday as saying.
"It will lead to an unnecessary politicising of the situation. Iran is not violating its obligations and its actions do not threaten the non-proliferation regime," he said in a speech in San Francisco reported by the RIA Novosti news agency.
Russia is building a $1 billion (553 million pounds) nuclear reactor for Iran and sees it as a key ally in the Middle East.
"The Russians are blocking the resolution," said a diplomat from one of the EU "big three" countries - France, Britain and Germany. "If we don't get them on board, or at least abstain, I don't think our resolution will be voted on."
At a meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of Eight countries on Monday, the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada all tried to convince Russia of the need to take Iran to the Security Council for hiding its nuclear fuel programme from the IAEA for 18 years.
"The Russians say that it's seven against one and they don't care," an EU diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Iran, which says its nuclear programme is not for making weapons, as suspected by Washington and the EU, but for generating power, has angered Brussels by resuming uranium processing work at a plant in Isfahan. That move led EU officials to threaten the Council referral.