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. Divisions remain between US and EU's Big Three on Iran's nuclear program
GENEVA (AFP) Sep 10, 2004
The United States and three major European countries were unable Friday to agree on how to tackle Iran's nuclear activities, but will continue talking over the weekend and at a UN atomic agency meeting next week, a top American official said.

A "tactical gap" between Washington and the so-called Euro 3 of Britain, France and Germany, over Iran -- which the United States believes is secretly developing nuclear weapons -- was narrowing, said John Bolton, US Under Secretary of State for arms control and international security.

But "we have a ways to go," he told a news conference in Geneva, following a US-hosted meeting with his counterparts from the other Group of Eightindustrialised countries.

"The objective that the United States has been pursuing has been to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapons capability and that is an objective shared by all of the G-8 countries," Bolton said.

"There is no disagreement on our broad objective. What we have tried to do here today and yesterday was to close the tactical gap that has existed between the United States and ... Britain France and Germany," he said.

"We made progress in that regard here ... I think discussions will continue over the weekend and into next week and we will see what we are able to do."

The US envoy declined, however, to say exactly what advances had been made.

"I do not want to really get into the specifics because the questions of closing the tactical gap I think are best addressed in private consultations," he said, adding that emails and telephone calls would follow Friday's talks.

The United States and the Euro 3 are preparing resolutions for Monday's meeting in Vienna of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that highlight their different approaches to dealing with Iran.

The Euro 3, which stress constructive engagement, want to avoid setting a deadline for Tehran to fully suspend uranium enrichment activities while the United States takes a harder line as it seeks to bring Iran before the UN Security Council.

"If we close the tactical gap we increase the likelihood that we can achieve our overall objective, which is to preclude the Iranians from achieving nuclear status and that really is what we want to focus on," said Bolton.

Iran's controversial bid to generate nuclear power at its Bushehr plant is seen by arch-enemies Israel and the United States as a cover for nuclear weapons development, allegations that Iran denies.

Government officials from the G8 countries -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- as well as other nations met in Geneva on Thursday to discuss non-proliferation issues.

This was followed by a regular monthly gathering on Friday of G8 members, who form a self-titled Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, hosted by Bolton.

Bolton said he was due to travel to Israel on Saturday for talks with officials about the upcoming IAEA meeting before returning to Washington.

Asked why Israel was treated differently to Iran with regard to the question of nuclear weapons development, Bolton said cases were incomparable as the United States has put Iran a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

"The case of Iran is very different to Israel," he said.

"It is discrimination when you treat two like things in a dissimilar fashion. It is also discrimination when you treat two unlike things in the same fashion," he said.

Most foreign experts believe Israel possesses up to 200 nuclear warheads, although it has stuck for the past 40 years to a policy of "strategic ambiguity" of neither confirming nor denying its nuclear arsenal.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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