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UK Expects Iran To Defy Nuclear Deadline

The Iranian uranium conversion facility, Isfahan. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Hannah K. Strange
UPI U.K. Correspondent
London (UPI) Apr 20, 2006
Britain does not expect that Iran will comply with the United Nations' 30-day deadline to halt uranium enrichment, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw admitted Wednesday.

However, he stated his belief that the international community's condemnation of Iran's nuclear ambitions was having a positive effect on the behavior of the Tehran regime, despite "belligerent" statements by the country's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Speaking to BBC Radio during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Straw also rejected suggestions of a split within the U.N. Security Council over the United States' willingness to use military force against Iran.

U.S. President George W. Bush Tuesday refused to rule out the military option, including limited nuclear strikes against the country's underground nuclear facilities; however, Straw said such action was only a "theoretical" possibility.

The five permanent members of the Security Council -- Britain, the United States, France, China and Russia -- met, along with Germany, in Moscow Tuesday to discuss possible sanctions should Iran fail to meet the U.N. deadline. The talks continued Wednesday.

Although Tuesday's discussions failed to produce agreement, Straw insisted that the international community remained united in its determination to prevent Tehran acquiring a nuclear weapon.

He acknowledged that Security Council members had different positions on whether theoretically, military force could ultimately be used, but said "in practice both the Americans and Europeans, the Russians and Chinese are committed to finding a diplomatic solution to this issue."

Straw said the Security Council would now wait for the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, to report on the extent of Tehran's compliance or non-compliance with the obligations imposed on it by the IAEA.

However, he added: "We are working on the basis that Iran will not meet the proposals from the Security Council within the 30-day deadline.

"Negotiating with the Iranians takes a kind of rondo form, so you never quite know what is going to happen.

"But what is most likely to happen is that the matter will move back to the Security Council and there will then be discussions about the next steps which the international community will take," he said.

Straw suggested, however, that despite Tehran's likely non-compliance, there were some grounds for optimism.

"I think Iran is feeling some of the pressure, as well as its president making belligerent statements."

He said: "They have responded more than I think people see. For example, they were threatening total withdrawal from the operation of the inspectors. That hasn't actually happened.

He continued: "At each stage they have calculated they could split the international community. At each stage, though, they have just ended up with the international community more united in its concern to ensure full compliance by the Iranians.

"That is of great concern to many more sensible Iranians."

But despite Straw's avowals of international unity, a split does appear to be developing over the possibility of military action, not only among members of the Security Council but also within the British government.

A report in the New Yorker magazine last week that U.S. officials were contemplating nuclear strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities has set alarm bells ringing among those who fear a repeat of the unilateral rush to war over Iraq.

Straw, who described the report as "absolutely nuts," has previously dismissed the military option as "inconceivable" and unjustifiable.

But Prime Minister Tony Blair, pressed on the issue in Parliament Tuesday, refused to back his foreign secretary's position, saying that it was "perfectly sensible" for Washington to consider all options.

Asked by Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Menzies Campbell if there was any military option, including nuclear strikes, that he would rule out, Blair would only reply that "nobody is talking about these things."

He insisted that the international community was pursuing a diplomatic solution to the dispute, but added: "It is important that we take action if Iran continues to be in breach of its obligations."

Tehran has signaled it will continue to defy U.N. calls to halt uranium enrichment, declaring last week that it had joined the nations with "nuclear technology" by successfully producing the enriched uranium needed to produce nuclear fuel.

Announcing what, if confirmed, amounts to a major technological advance, Ahmadinejad vowed to press ahead with Iran's nuclear programs, which he insists are for peaceful energy purposes only.

Suggestions of U.S. military action have been met with pledges of violent resistance. As talks began in Moscow Tuesday, Ahmadinejad declared that the Islamic Republic would "cut the hand of any aggressor" if attacked.

Addressing a ceremony for the country's Army Day, during which the military displayed its strength with a public parade of equipment such as missiles, the president said Iran's army was one of the most powerful in the world.

He warned: "Iran has created a powerful army that can powerfully defend the political borders and the integrity of the Iranian nation and cut the hand of any aggressor and place the sign of disgrace on their forehead."

Ahmadinejad has also prompted serious international concern with threats against the state of Israel, predicting last week that the Jewish state would be blown away in a "storm."

Such comments have increased the likelihood of Israel acting as a U.S. proxy for military action, with the country's ambassador to the U.N., Dan Gillerman, telling a Security Council debate Monday that Iran's threats amounted to a "declaration of war."

Source: United Press International

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