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Russia says West still considering military action on Iran

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov speaks during a news briefing in the main building of Foreign Ministry in Moscow, December 1
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov speaks during a news briefing in the main building of Foreign Ministry in Moscow, December 1

By Gleb Bryanski

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's deputy foreign minister said on Sunday that military action against Iran over its nuclear program was being considered in some Western countries.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was speaking to reporters on a plane on his way back from the G8 summit in Camp David, where the G8 leaders signaled their readiness to tap into emergency oil stockpiles quickly this summer if tougher new sanctions on Iran threatened to strain supplies.

"It is one of many various signals coming from various sources that the military option is considered as realistic and possible," he said. "We are receiving signals, both through public and intelligence channels, that this option is now being reviewed in some capitals as more applicable in this situation".

"We are very worried about this. We do not want the region and the world to fall into...new divisions and bitter political arguments," he said.

Western countries suspect Iran's nuclear program is aimed at making a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran denies.

A European Union embargo of Iranian crude takes effect in July and tough new U.S. sanctions come into force in late June. Iran's oil exports have fallen by more than a fifth this year.

Russia has adamantly urged Western nations not to attack Iran to neutralize its nuclear program, saying that threats would only encourage Tehran to develop such weapons.

Ryabkov dismissed suggestions that Russia, the world's biggest oil exporter, sought to keep tensions around Iran on the boil in order to benefit from higher global oil prices.

"It would be a simplification and possibly even a deliberate distortion of Moscow's position to believe that based on some wild, egoistic intentions, we want oil to cost $200 per barrel," Ryabkov said.

He said Russia wanted to keep oil prices stable at a level acceptable to consumers and suppliers. He said that any gains from the oil price spike would be short-lived.

A meeting between Iran and six world powers - Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France and Germany - is scheduled to take place in Baghdad on May 23.

Ryabkov said Russia had drafted a set of proposals for the Baghdad talks, saying negotiations needed to produce evidence of progress to the international community.

Proposals included suggested steps for Iran to restore international confidence as well as incentives on cooperation, said Ryabkov, adding that any followup round of talks should take place within weeks in order to maintain the momentum.

"Practical results are needed that can be shown to the international community as evidence that we are moving forward," Ryabkov said.

TENSIONS OVER SYRIA

Much like with Iran, Moscow has long urged Western powers not to intervene in Syria over bloodshed in which the United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed.

At a G8 summit in France in May 2011, Russia successfully managed to water down a statement on Syria removing calls for action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Ryabkov said that this time part of the G8 statement which concerns Syria, which called for a "political transition leading to a democratic plural political system", fully satisfied Russia.

"Anything that will be a product of the process of national reconciliation and dialogue will satisfy the Russian side. We are nobody's advocates in this process," he said.

Ryabkov said Assad's departure from power in a scenario similar to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been granted immunity from prosecution, was discussed at the G8 summit, but Russia opposed the idea.

(Reporting by Gleb Bryanski, editing by Maria Golovnina and Diana Abdallah)

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