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Big Powers Meet As Questions Mount Whether Iran Will Turn Into Iraq

Demonstrators in Germany taking part in a peace march dance. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Stefan Nicola
UPI Germany Correspondent
Berlin (UPI) Apr 19, 2006
The world's powers on Tuesday met in Moscow for talks on Iran's nuclear program after rhetoric intensified on both sides of the Atlantic. In Germany, people took to the streets during the Easter holiday shouting: "No to war against Iran." Experts, however, say Europe would not stand united if Iran became a sequel to Iraq.

According to a New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh, a military strike against Iran has been through planning phases at the Pentagon. Such a strike would be carried out by Israel, a reliable source told United Press International earlier this week.

But when asked if Europe would stage a public outcry in case of a war against Iran, with millions taking the streets protesting against a first strike, a German Iran expert on Tuesday told UPI he didn't think so.

"In Germany, the public would be evenly divided, much unlike in 2003, where virtually everyone was against the Iraq war," Erwin Haeckel, analyst at the German Council on Foreign Relations, a Berlin and Bonn-based foreign policy think tank, told UPI. Only a few hundred people -- estimates range from 400 to 800 protestors -- marched through Munich urging the world powers to peacefully deal with Iran.

In 2003, protests against the U.S.-led Iraq war flared up in all of the European capitals before and during the invasion, scuttling trans-Atlantic ties to a new low.

Haeckel said the new right-left grand government under Chancellor Angela Merkel will not fuel anti-American sentiments, as the previous government of Gerhard Schroeder had.

"There will be no outcry against a war. German diplomacy efforts have been constantly mocked by the Iranian leadership, so the Auswaertige Amt (German foreign ministry) will not be able to protest much."

For the past two years Germany, along with Britain and France, has led diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear conflict at the negotiation table. Even in Germany, which is dominated by strong anti-war sentiments after its recovery from the Nazi era, patience may eventually run out, observers say. The blatant anti-Semitic remarks made by Iranian hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," have irritated German politicians, including Merkel.

At a security conference in Munich earlier this year, she compared the situation in Iran to the Third Reich, when Europeans slept during the semi-silent rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party which eventually ordered the killing of some six million Jews. "We have learned from our history," Merkel said in February. "Now we see that there were times when we could have acted differently. For that reason, Germany is obliged to intervene at an early stage... to make clear (to Iran) what flies and what doesn't fly."

Tuesday's meeting in Moscow, where diplomats from the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany discussed how to handle the mounting conflict, were overshadowed by strong words from Tehran's top envoy to Russia.

"One way to avert war is to be prepared for any war," Iranian Ambassador Gholamreza Ansari was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies Interfax and RIA Novosti. "Iran continues to make a maximum effort so that no war will happen in this region," Ansari said. However, he added "Iran has been, is and will be prepared" for armed conflict if it comes to that.

Hours before the meeting began, Ahmadinejad praised his army's strength during a military parade in Tehran. And in Washington, President George W. Bush refused to take a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Iranian nuclear facilities off the table.

Rising tensions with Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, sent the price for crude oil up to $72 dollars a barrel.

Washington seems ready to steer a tougher course after the Islamic Republic defied all offers for a compromise and earlier this month announced it would push for full-scale industrial uranium enrichment, a slap in the face of the West.

Punitive measures could include freezing Iranian assets or imposing travel bans on Iranian officials, likely advocated by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, who took part in the meeting.

Germany, France and Britain -- the so-called EU-3 -- have said they would push for a diplomatic solution; Russia and China both oppose sanctions and a military solution.

The United Nations' top nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has urged Iran to freeze enrichment, and its head, Mohammed ElBaradei, has been in Iran for the past week and will file a report on the situation.

Iran has the right to enrich nuclear energy for civilian purposes, but the West believes Tehran is using the process to secretly and illegally build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge.

In 2003, the IAEA discovered Iran had carried out secret nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the non-proliferation treaty.

After negotiations between the EU-3 and Iran failed earlier this year, the IAEA's Board of Governors finally referred the conflict to the 15-member U.N. Security Council.

The U.N. has issued a 30-day deadline for Iran to comply, which will run out April 28.

Experts say there may be not much the international community can do to convince Iran to enrich uranium in Russia, or take any of the other compromise offers.

"I expect threats to intensify during the next weeks," Haeckel said.

Source: United Press International

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Some Experts Suspect Iranian Nuclear Program More Advanced Than Thought
Washington (AFP) Apr 19, 2006
A one-sentence assertion made by the Iranian president has provoked such surprise and concern among international nuclear inspectors they are planning to confront Tehran about it this week, The New York Times reported Monday.

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