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Flurry of UN Activity Amid Signs Of Progress On Iran Statement

The UN Security Council.
by Staff Writers
United Nations (AFP) Mar 29, 2006
Key members of the UN Security Council on Tuesday reported some progress in efforts to agree a statement urging Iran to come clean on its nuclear program. Envoys of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States held three rounds of informal talks and were to meet again later in the afternoon.

The flurry of diplomatic activity comes as foreign ministers of the P-5 plus Germany prepared to meet Thursday in Berlin to try to map out a long-term strategy on how to deal with Iran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment, which could be used in bombs.

"I think we've got a certain momentum," US ambassador John Bolton told reporters. "The ministers are getting together in Berlin on Thursday and I think for their purposes and for ours we'll try to reach agreement here before that."

"We may succeed, we may not succeed but that's what we are working on," he added. He described the purpose of the Berlin ministerial meeting as "long-range thinking".

"We are making some progress," said China's UN envoy Wang Guangya, who stressed that differences between the Western powers on one side and Russia and China on the other had been narrowed in the latest consultations.

The 15-member Security Council has been trying in vain for nearly three weeks to agree on a Franco-British statement, backed by Washington, that calls on Iran to honor its international commitments.

The text aims to reinforce demands from the UN nuclear watchdog, including immediate suspension of all uranium enrichment activities and a return to a nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) protocol that allows for wider inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Russia and China have opposed language in the proposed statement that would even hint at punitive measures against Iran, an ally and key trading partner.

Another key stumbling block is a demand by Russia and China that the proposed statement reaffirmed the pre-eminent role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in dealing with the nuclear crisis.

"Let the IAEA play the leading role ... reinforce the role of the IAEA. I think we are moving in that direction," Wang said.

"All of us have said we want to strengthen the hand of the IAEA and I think that will be clear in the text when it comes out but the Security Council has a role too and that will be clear," Bolton said.

France's UN envoy Jean-Marc de la Sabliere concurred, saying the proposed non-binding statement, which must be approved by all 15 council members, "will be consistent with the idea that both (the IAEA and the Security Council) have to play their role."

Meanwhile UN chief Kofi Annan said: "The Iranians will have to heed the advice of (IAEA head Mohamed) ElBaradei and convince the international community that their intention is only for peaceful use of nuclear energy."

"I think it ought to be possible for them to come back to the (negotiating) table."

Germany, France and Britain, the so-called EU-3, have pursued three years of inconclusive negotiations to coax Tehran off its nuclear program in exchange for economic incentives.

On Tuesday, Russia called for an "unambiguous" reply from Iran on an offer to resolve an international standoff over Tehran's nuclear program as Security Council talks moved into high gear.

"Iran must give an unambiguous agreement or refusal to this offer so that all the worries in the international community are resolved," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said at a press conference in Moscow.

Several rounds of negotiations in recent weeks between Moscow and Tehran on a Russian proposal to undertake uranium enrichment on Iran's behalf have failed to yield any concrete results.

Iran earlier agreed "in principle" to the offer but then blamed the United States for holding back a deal.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Straw Iran Will Not Be Another Iraq
London (UPI) Mar 29, 2006
Military action against Iran is neither appropriate nor conceivable, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insisted Tuesday. Speaking in London as he launched a Foreign Office white paper outlining Britain's international strategy for the coming decade, Straw moved to allay fears that the current stand-off would lead to "another Iraq."

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