Putin calls for restraint over Iran and Kosovo

LISBON (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called on the West to show restraint over both Iran’s nuclear programme and the future status of Kosovo, ahead of an EU-Russia summit here.

Putin, in Lisbon for Friday’s meeting, warned that the threat of fresh sanctions or even military action against Iran over its nuclear programme would only make the situation worse.

He also called for “patience” on the question of the future status of Serbia‘s province of Kosovo, where the mainly ethnic Albanian population is seeking independence.

After the United States on Thursday ratcheted up tensions over Iran’s nuclear drive with a raft of new sanctions targeting the Islamic republic’s military and banks, Putin warned against harsh action.

“Why make the situation worse, bring it to a dead end, threaten sanctions or even military action,” he asked.

“You can run around like mad people wielding razor blades but it is not the best way to resolve the problem.”

Taking a peaceful approach towards North Korea in the controversy over its nuclear programme had brought the international community closer to a solution, he added.

Tehran insists it is developing a civilian programme to produce nuclear energy, but the United States, Israel and other Western powers suspect it could be masking efforts to develop a nuclear military capability.

On the issue of Kosovo, Putin said that Russia was respecting international law by opposing UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari‘s recommendation to give internationally supervised independence to the Serbian province.

“Why upset the principles of international law by encouraging separatism in Europe,” he asked.

“Don’t you have enough problems in Spain, in Belgium?”

Spain is facing renewed violence from regional Basque separatist group ETA, while there have been calls in the mainly Flemish speaking north of Belgium for greater autonomy from the mainly Francophone south.

“When we’re talking to our colleagues from the European Commission I sometimes get the impression that we are defending Europe’s interests more than our counterparts,” Putin said.

The Kremlin chief’s comments came ahead of Friday’s talks with EU leaders in Mafra, 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the capital Portuguese Lisbon, hosted by Prime Minister Jose Socrates whose country currently holds the EU presidency.

No major announcements are planned for the summit, although both EU and Russian officials have emphasised that business ties between Moscow and Brussels are booming.

Russia has complained, however, about what it calls discrimination against Russian energy companies in the European Union and EU-Russia talks on forming a new partnership are stalled.

Russia has also been angered by US plans to deploy interceptor missiles and a radar in EU member states Poland and the Czech Republic, saying the missile shield is aimed against Russia.

Washington says the shield is to fend off possible missile strikes by Iran.


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