VIENNA — Russia's president said Moscow was ready to consider new sanctions on Iran for its nuclear defiance, and the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency warned that he cannot confirm that all of Tehran's atomic activities are peaceful.
President Dmitry Medvedev emphasized Monday that he still hoped for a settlement with Iran on nuclear issues that would negate any need for a fourth set of U.N. Security Council sanctions. Still, his comments appeared to be the strongest sign to date that the Kremlin was prepared to drop traditional opposition to such penalties if Tehran remains obstinate.
China and Russia have in the past blocked Western attempts for a fourth set of sanctions, with Beijing traditionally following Moscow's lead. But because it depends on Iran for much of its energy needs, China may continue to resist pressure from the other four council members.
Iran already is under three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to freeze uranium enrichment — a potential pathway to nuclear weapons — and other activities generating concerns that it seeks to make fissile warhead material. It insists, however, that it is enriching only to make nuclear fuel for an envisaged reactor network.
Amid Medvedev's warnings, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told a meeting of the Vienna-based agency's 35-nation board that he cannot verify that Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful. And international officials revealed a new source of friction between Iran and the agency, telling the Associated Press that Tehran was resisting IAEA efforts to improve monitoring of the Islamic Republic's recently launched higher enrichment program.