MOSCOW Russia said on Thursday a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to tighten sanctions against Iran would not help resolve the dispute over Tehran's nuclear program. Congress passed a bill on Wednesday that will cut Iran's oil exports to nearly zero, in an attempt to reduce the flow of funds to its nuclear program and send a strong message to Tehran before President-elect Hassan Rouhani is sworn in.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said that United Nations Security Council sanctions already in place against Tehran were sufficient. He suggested the U.S. bill, which still has more steps to clear before becoming law, was counterproductive.
"Any additional sanctions are actually aimed at the economic strangulation of Iran, but not at solving the problem of non-proliferation," Gatilov told Interfax news agency. "What has been done through the Security Council is quite adequate and sufficient."
World powers hope Iran's relatively moderate new leader will comply with demands for Tehran to scale back nuclear work, which they suspect is aimed at enabling it to make bombs. Iran says the nuclear activities are purely for civilian purposes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to push for concessions from Iran on its nuclear program when he meets Rouhani in Kyrgyzstan in September. Russia is a veto-weilding permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and one of six world powers involved in talks on Iran's nuclear program.
(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel, Editing by Timothy Heritage)