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Major Powers Give Iran Until Early October To Accept Nuclear Deal

If Iran suspends its enrichment, which Washington and others believe is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, Rice said she would personally attend the launch of direct negotiations with Tehran aimed at rewarding the Islamic republic for winding down its nuclear program.
by Staff Writers
United Nations (AFP) Sep 20, 2006
The major powers have given Iran a new deadline of early October to suspend uranium enrichment and begin negotiations on a package of rewards for stepping back from a nuclear showdown, a senior European diplomat said Wednesday.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and Italy agreed at a meeting late Tuesday to give European negotiators more time to convince Iran to give up its enrichment program before seeking sanctions against Tehran as called for under a UN resolution.

But the meeting set a deadline of early October for success in the negotiations between European foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani, the diplomat said.

Speaking Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the major powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States -- agreed that Iran must respond rapidly.

"We must have a response fairly quickly," he said, "it's becoming urgent."

At Tuesday's meeting, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backed away from the long-standing US position that Iran should face sanctions immediately for failing to meet an August 31 UN deadline for suspending its uranium enrichment.

At the urging of Washington's partners, she agreed to permit a new round of negotiations between Solana and Larijani in hopes of convincing Tehran to meet the UN demand, US officials said.

If Iran suspends its enrichment, which Washington and others believe is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, Rice said she would personally attend the launch of direct negotiations with Tehran aimed at rewarding the Islamic republic for winding down its nuclear program.

But Washington also got its partners to agree to the new deadline for imposing sanctions if Iran stands firm, according to senior US and European officials who were present at the meeting.

The US officials declined to reveal the new deadline, but the European diplomat said Solana would be given until the first week of October to achieve results in his talks with Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani.

Douste-Blazy said Tuesday's meeting had agreed on the need to give Iran one more chance to reach a negotiated settlement of the dispute.

"We all thought that we had to avoid confrontation and do everything possible to pursue a dialogue ... while also avoiding a situation where the Iranians, through meeting after meeting, are able to play for time and we end up with a fait accompli" of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, he said.

Douste-Blazy was due to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki later Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, a diplomat said.

At the same time, however, chances of a quick breakthrough in the standoff dimmed with the announcement that Larijani would not meet with Solana in New York this week as expected.

Instead, Larijani and Solana agreed in a telephone conversation to hold talks next week in an unidentified European capital, the official Iranian news agency reported in Tehran.

Time of the essence in Iran showdown : Bush
President George W. Bush warned Wednesday "time is of the essence" in the prolonged international diplomatic drive to halt Iran's nuclear program. Bush said in an interview with CNN that he was still worried Tehran was playing for time in talks with world powers on a package of incentives designed to get it to halt uranium enrichment.

After returning to Washington from the United Nations General Assembly, Bush injected a new note of urgency into the showdown, when asked whether he backed the Israeli position that there were only a few months left until Iranian scientists learned how to enrich the uranium needed to make a nuclear bomb.

"I'm not going to discuss with you our intelligence on the subject, but time is of the essence," Bush said.

"I'm concerned that Iran is trying to stall, and to try to buy time, and therefore it seems like a smart policy is to push this issue along as hard as we can and we are."

A senior European diplomat at the United Nations meanwhile said Iran had been handed a new deadline of early October to halt enriching uranium and join crisis talks.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice refused to confirm that date, but added that "everyone wants to resolve this through negotiations and everyone wants to solve this thing quickly."

On Tuesday, Rice backed away from the long-standing US position that Iran should face sanctions immediately for failing to meet a previous August 31 UN deadline for suspending uranium enrichment.

At the urging of Washington's partners, she agreed to permit a new round of talks between the European Union and Iran in hopes of convincing Tehran to meet a UN demand to halt enrichment or face sanctions.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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