A military attack on Iran would destabilize the region while new sanctions against Tehran would "stifle" the Iranian economy and hurt its population, Russia's foreign minister said Wednesday.
Sergey Lavrov said that Russia is seriously worried about the prospect of a military action against Iran and is doing all it can to prevent it.
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"The consequences will be extremely grave," he said. "It's not going to be an easy walk. It will trigger a chain reaction, and I don't know where it will stop."
"It has nothing to do with a desire to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation," Lavrov said at a news conference. "It's aimed at stifling the Iranian economy and the population in an apparent hope to provoke discontent."
Russia has walked a fine line on the Iranian nuclear crisis, mixing careful criticism of Iran, an important trading partner, with praise for some of its moves and calls for more talks.
The EU is weighing whether to impose sanctions on buying Iranian oil, which is the source of more than 80 percent of Tehran's foreign revenue. The US has already imposed new sanctions targeting Iran's central bank and, by extension, refiners' ability to buy and pay for crude.
Lavrov with Iranian President Ahmadinejad (Archives: AFP)
Russia believes that "all thinkable sanctions already have been applied" and that new penalties could derail hopes for continuing six-way negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program, provoking Iranian intransigence, Lavrov said.
He noted that the EU's consideration of new sanctions comes as Iran plans to host a delegation from the UN nuclear watchdog. "We believe that there is every chance to resume talks between the six powers and Iran, and we are concerned about obstacles being put to them," he said. "The sanctions could hardly help make the talks productive."
'No need for military op in Syria'
Also on Wednesday, Russia warned against military action in Syria, as Lavrov said that Russia will block any attempt by the West to secure UN support for the use of force against Syria.
Lavrov said Russia's draft of a UN Security Council resolution on the violence in Syria was aimed at making it explicitly clear that nothing could justify a foreign military interference.
Western diplomats said it fell short of their demand for strong condemnation of Syria's President Bashar Assad's crackdown on civilians, that has left more than 5,000 people dead.
The Security Council has been unable to agree on a resolution since the violence began in March because a strong opposition from Russia and China. In October, they vetoed a West European draft resolution, backed by the US, that condemned Assad's attacks and threatened sanctions.
"If some intend to use force at all cost ... we can hardly prevent that from happening," he said. "But let them do it at their own initiative on their own conscience, they won't get any authorization from the UN Security Council."
Lavrov also said that Russia doesn't consider it necessary to offer an explanation or excuses over suspicions that a Russian ship had delivered munitions to Syria despite an EU arms embargo.
Lavrov told a news conference that Russia was acting in full respect of the international law and wouldn't be guided by unilateral sanctions imposed by other nations.
"We haven't violated any international agreements or the UN Security Council resolutions," he said. "We are only trading with Syria in items, which aren't banned by the international law."
Lavrov accused the West of turning a blind eye to attacks by opposition militants and supplies of weapons to the Syrian opposition from abroad.
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