* Foreign Ministry bridles at “unacceptable” move
* Warns West risks losing Moscow support for joint approach
* EU leaders agree sanctions targeting oil, gas sectors (Updates with State Department comment, paragraphs 13-15)
By Steve Gutterman
MOSCOW, June 17 (Reuters) - Russia told the United States and European Union Thursday it was extremely disappointed they were imposing additional sanctions on Iran beyond those approved by the U.N. Security Council with Moscow’s backing.
Moscow called the U.S. and EU sanctions “unacceptable” and warned the West it risked losing Russian support for concerted efforts to rein in Tehran’s nuclear activity.
“We are extremely disappointed that neither the United States nor the European Union is heeding our calls to refrain from such steps,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to the Interfax and Itar-Tass news agencies.
EU leaders agreed tighter sanctions Thursday targeting Iran’s oil and gas sector, a day after the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on some Iranian banks, companies and Revolutionary Guard Corps members.
Before joining the United States, Britain and France in supporting a fourth round of sanctions in the Security Council last week, Russia had urged Washington and the EU not to hit Tehran with additional measures.
“For us, attempts to place oneself above the Security Council in this way are unacceptable,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website (www.mid.ru) later on Thursday.
The Russian remarks darken the backdrop for President Dmitry Medvedev’s trip next week to the United States, which is meant to build on recent improvements in ties.
The Foreign Ministry said the additional sanctions would harm joint efforts to press Iran to halt suspect nuclear activities and ensure that it does not acquire atomic weapons.
The U.S. and EU moves “undermine the foundations for our dialogue and interaction in seeking optimal ways to resolve the situation surrounding Iran’s nuclear program,” it said.
“The same story is repeated again and again: as soon as we reach a common understanding in the U.N. Security Council on a package of finely calibrated measures to influence Iran through sanctions, the United States and EU don’t stop at that and, strictly speaking, display political disregard for their partnership with Russia,” the statement said.
Unilateral sanctions that go beyond U.N. measures “are not just harmful, they undermine the very foundation of our joint work with our partners in the sextet and the Security Council,” Interfax quoted Ryabkov as saying.
The sextet refers to the five veto-wielding permanent Security Council members — Russia, the United States, China, Britain and France — plus Germany.
The U.S. State Department said the new U.S. and EU sanctions were aimed at tightening the screws on those already targeted by the U.N. sanctions resolution.
“The Russians have consistently expressed concerns that any sanctions not impact the Iranian people and obviously those are concerns that we share,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
“We believe that the steps we’ve announced as well as (those) the EU has announced earlier today are targeted against entitites and individuals, but not the Iranian people.”
Russia’s remarks may have been meant in part to soothe Iran, where Moscow has trade interests and is building a nuclear power plant, and to assure Russians ahead of Medvedev’s U.S. trip that the Kremlin is not doing the bidding of the United States.
Iran denies Western allegations that it is seeking atomic weapons, insisting that it wants only peaceful nuclear energy.
While Russia and China used their clout in the Security Council to water down the sanctions, U.S. officials have pointed to Moscow’s yes vote as a sign that President Barack Obama’s effort to “reset” Russia ties has practical benefits.
Ryabkov reiterated that Russia interprets the U.N. sanctions as prohibiting it from delivering S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Iran under a contract the United States and Israel urged Moscow not to fulfil. (additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in Washington; Editing by Robert Woodward)