Six world powers meet over nuclear defiant Iran
VIENNA, Sept 7 (AFP) Sep 07, 2006
The six world powers trying to get Iran to give up strategic nuclear fuel work meet in Berlin Thursday to figure out how to handle a defiant Tehran, with the United States pushing for UN sanctions.
It is the first meeting of permanent UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany, since Iran failed on August 31 to honor a Council deadline to halt uranium enrichment, the process which makes nuclear reactor fuel but also atom bomb material.
The six are offering Iran talks on a package of trade, security and technology benefits if it freezes enrichment.
In Berlin, "they're going to talk about sanctions, and my guess is that they're going to come up with not very much," Chicago-based non-proliferation expert Gary Samore said about the meeting of the six nations' foreign ministry political directors.
A Western diplomat agreed, saying the gathering was "not a decision-making meeting. It is the first conversation on where we go from here."
Washington leads international concerns that Iran is covertly trying to develop nuclear weapons, something Tehran denies, as well as the push for sanctions.
But Iranian allies and major trading partners Russia and China are reluctant to take such measures, fearing they will worsen the current confrontation or even lead to war.
The Berlin meeting comes after an EU-Iran effort to kickstart negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program and give it a chance to avoid UN sanctions were postponed at the last minute in Vienna Wednesday.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani had tentatively planned to meet in Vienna ahead of the Berlin talks, but it was broken off with Iranian ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh telling AFP there was "no particular reason" for the delay.
In a sign of mounting international impatience, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday Russia was considering support for Security Council economic sanctions against Iran.
"We will consider this from all points of view, in totality, based on our goal of not allowing the spread of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and technology that is linked with this," state-run RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.
Lavrov said however that Russia still had reservations about imposing sanctions on Iran and he underlined Moscow's opposition to military action.
But a senior US official said it was "essential" for the Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran, saying the prospect of Tehran with a nuclear arsenal was "intolerable."
Robert Joseph, US under secretary of state for arms control and international security, said he believed a vote on sanctions could come this month, and he expected Russia and China would sign on.
The campaign picked up pace after President George W. Bush on Tuesday branded Iran's leaders "tyrants" and said they must not be allowed to get nuclear weapons, "the tools of mass murder."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hit back saying Bush was "nothing" compared to God's will.
"I am telling him (Bush) that all the world is threatening you since the general path that the world is taking is towards worshipping God and divinity," Ahmadinejad told a conference in Tehran.
Joseph said he expected China and Russia to support sanctions, despite signs they were reluctant to punish Tehran.
"I think China, like Russia and the other states that voted for the resolution, will support what is called for in the resolution," he said.
"I think it is very important when a country like Russia or China supports a resolution that is going to have an impact on their decision making," said Joseph, referring to UN Resolution 1696, which threatened sanctions if Iran missed the deadline.
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