Russia said on Tuesday it opposed more international sanctions on Iran, laying bare divisions among six major powers about how to respond to failed talks with Tehran over its nuclear programme.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his British counterpart William Hague made clear at a joint news conference they disagreed about the next step in pressing Iran to stop uranium enrichment after last month's talks made no progress.
Russia and Britain are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and together with the United States, China, Germany and France have been negotiating with Iran over its nuclear programme.
Western nations suspect Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear bomb although Tehran says the programme is peaceful.
The United Nations has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Tehran over the programme, with Russia and China traditionally more reluctant than the Western partners to go down the sanctions route.
Asked if it was time to consider more U.N. sanctions, Hague said: "Our position is that it will be necessary to intensify the peaceful pressure on Iran to be able to take these negotiations forward."
Hague made a similar statement to the British parliament on Monday and a government source said he was talking about either tightening existing sanctions or imposing new ones.
LAVROV CRITICISES WEST
Lavrov said Russia opposed more sanctions and accused Western nations of not acting as good partners by imposing additional unilateral sanctions on Iran.
Sanctions so far had targeted people or organisations involved in the Iranian nuclear programme, but there were no more similar opportunities for targeted sanctions, he said.
"Further sanctions would mean the creation of social problems for the (Iranian) population and we would not be able to support them," Lavrov said, as Hague stood by.
Sanctions imposed unilaterally by the United States, the European Union, Japan and other countries in recent months undermined the joint work of the Security Council and of the six-power group dealing with Tehran, Lavrov said.
"All the issues that our Western partners wanted to include (in the U.N. sanctions), but were not able to include, they imposed unilaterally. It is not in a partner-like character and we have put it openly to our British, German, French colleagues," Lavrov said, speaking through an interpreter.
"We believe that it undermines the perspectives of our joint actions," he said.
He called for "creative approaches" to dealing with the Iran issue, proposing an "action for action" plan where other countries would respond to concessions from Iran.
"We need to identify a specific plan of movement. If Iran completes their specific IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) requirements, then Iran will know that the international community will make its step," he said.