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World Powers Urge Iran To Stop Enrichment

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
by Stefan Nicola
UPI Germany Correspondent
Berlin (UPI) Mar 31, 2006
The five veto-wielding powers of the U.N. Security Council and Germany called on Iran Thursday to stop uranium enrichment within the next 30 days or face international isolation.

"Iran now has to choose between self-inflicted isolation by continuing its enrichment activities...or it may return to the negotiation table," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a joint news conference with his colleagues in Berlin. "We all hope very much that Iran takes this opportunity...and we once again call on Iran to stop all enrichment activities."

Steinmeier and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana joined foreign ministers from the five permanent member states of the Security Council -- the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain -- to discuss how to break the deadlock over Iran's nuclear program.

Speaking after Steinmeier, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the international community was "united" on Iran, adding the get-together would send "a very strong signal" to the leadership in Tehran. Rice had earlier met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to other discuss bilateral issues.

"We have shown very great patience with Iran," British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said. "They in turn have miscalculated."

Steinmeier added he and his colleagues still would aim for a diplomatic solution to the ongoing conflict, but added it was now Iran's turn to alleviate international mistrust about its nuclear program. Steinmeier and Rice ducked questions on possible sanctions, arguing they wouldn't want to comment until the 30-day-deadline will have passed.

"The decision-making now lies with Iran. We now need clear signals from Iran," Steinmeier said.

The meeting got under way just a few hours after the Security Council unanimously agreed to issue a presidential statement calling on Iran to stop uranium enrichment activities and comply with the demands issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

The IAEA wants Iran to stop nuclear activities and allow inspectors back into their facilities. The statement also asked the Vienna-based agency to report back to the council in 30 days on the level of Iranian cooperation.

Observers say, however, the U.N. statement is toothless because it had to be watered down to find Russian and Chinese agreement; both countries have close economic ties with Iran and oppose U.N. sanctions or a military conflict.

"Russia doesn't believe that sanctions could resolve the open questions, especially in the Middle East where there's so much going on," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"We have to solve this conflict peacefully," Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo added.

Experts agree the next 30 days will determine the route this impasse is taking.

"We will all very closely watch how Iran reacts to the presidential statement issued yesterday," Steinmeier said, adding he hoped that latest remarks made by Iranian officials "won't be the last word."

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Thursday told a disarmament conference in Geneva that Iran's nuclear program was "peaceful and has never diverted towards prohibited activities." He said referring Iran to the Security Council was "an abuse of international mechanisms, misguided, legally unwarranted and clearly unacceptable," adding the latest U.N. statement would weaken the nonproliferation treaty and lead to crisis.

Iran has the right to enrich nuclear energy for civil 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 nonproliferation treaty.

After negotiations between Iran and Britain, France and Germany -- the so-called EU-3, failed earlier this year, the IAEA's Board of Governors finally referred the question to the 15-member UNSC.

Erwin Haeckel, Iran expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations, on Thursday told United Press International Iran had to become active before the deadline runs out.

"They will have to do something, and I expect them to find some sort of wishy-washy way out of this," Haeckel said. "At least the UN has found a common statement, it took them long enough. But for the next 30 days, it really is a poker game."

Source: United Press International

Related Links
UN Security Council
International Atomic Energy Agency

Putin Stresses Russias Need For Nuclear Deterrent
Moscow (AFP) Mar 31, 2006
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday his country needed to maintain a nuclear deterrent to guarantee its security, Russian news agencies reported. "An analysis of the international situation forces Russia to view the nuclear deterrent as a fundamental necessity for security," Ria Novosti quoted Putin during a meeting about the nuclear defence industry.

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