The Wall Street Journal
Interactive Edition
April 16, 1997

Russia Opposes Europe's Effort To Isolate Iran After Court Case

By CACILIE ROHWEDDER

BONN -- Russia opposes Europe's move toward isolating Iran, a spokesman for President Boris Yeltsin said.

"We're fundamentally opposed to isolating states," the spokesman said at a panel discussion in Bonn on the eve of Mr. Yeltsin's two-day visit to Germany. "We don't think that's the way to sway anybody. A dialogue with these states is a more productive way to achieve a maximum amount of influence," he said.

Russia already pledged to strengthen its ties to Iran during a visit by Ali Akbar Nateq-Noori, Iran's Parliament speaker, to Moscow last week.

Russia's warm welcome of Mr. Nateq-Noori was in sharp contrast to Germany's decision to cool relations with Iran after a German court ruled that the Iranian government was responsible for the 1992 killings of exiled Kurdish dissidents in Berlin. In response, the European Union, led by Germany, suspended its longstanding policy of "critical dialogue," which preserved trade and political ties with Iran. The U.S. has long been critical of Europe's trade relations with Iran.

The German-Iranian dispute bore first economic consequences on Tuesday when an Iranian trade delegation due to visit Germany next week to court investors postponed the trip. The Iranian embassy in Bonn said the visit would "not be opportune at the present time," according to a spokesman for the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Germany's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the decision.

Despite its vow to broaden ties with Iran, Russia said it isn't signing new weapons deals with the Islamic country. Current shipments, it said, were merely fulfilling contracts from the days of the Soviet Union.

But a foreign policy adviser to the chairman of the Russian Federation Council said Russia favors "constructive solutions" with Iran instead of isolating the country. "Iran is an important trading partner," said Juli Kvitzinsky, who is the former Soviet ambassador to Germany. "Iran is our neighbor, while from you, it is pretty far away," he told German scholars and policy makers at the panel debate.

Asked whether Russia shouldn't support Europe's toughening stance toward Iran, Mr. Kvitzinsky said: "Of course I think that we should show solidarity with you. But then you should also show solidarity with us on the issue of NATO expansion. That's much closer to all of us than Iran is."