Reuters: More work is needed to unite world powers behind a U.N. resolution to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Germany said on Tuesday after foreign ministers failed to agree a joint strategy. By Edmund Blair
TEHRAN (Reuters) – More work is needed to unite world powers behind a U.N. resolution to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Germany said on Tuesday after foreign ministers failed to agree a joint strategy.
“Five or six questions are still open” before the draft resolution can be concluded, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in an interview with German public television station ZDF. He did not detail the issues.
Ministers from the five permanent U.N. Security Council members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — plus Germany held talks in New York on Monday on a resolution demanding that Iran halt uranium enrichment.
Western nations have been pushing for the resolution to stop what they say is a covert Iranian effort to build nuclear bombs. Iran says it seeks only to develop civil nuclear power.
Russia and China oppose the draft, saying that ratcheting up pressure on the world’s fourth largest crude oil producer would be self-defeating and might precipitate an oil crisis.
“We need to make sure we don’t start something we cannot stop and which could get out of control afterwards,” Steinmeier said.
Political directors from the major powers will meet on Tuesday in New York and will probably convene again next week but the resolution’s supporters have backed away from setting a time for an agreement, a U.S. official said.
Iran has refused to back down on what it calls its right to produce fuel for nuclear power plants. It has enriched small quantities of uranium and plans to ramp up production to an industrial level, although this could take considerable time.
An unprecedented letter sent by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to President Bush on Monday briefly raised hopes it could contain proposals to end the standoff.
U.S. DISMISSES LETTER
But the letter, the first from an Iranian head of state to a U.S. president since Washington severed ties after the 1979 Islamic revolution, instead focused on alleged U.S. wrongdoings.
“We do not aim to use the letter for the nuclear discussions because we have enough legal justifications for the nuclear issue,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said, according to the official IRNA news agency.
Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday he was waiting for Bush’s reaction to the letter, but U.S. officials have dismissed the missive as a ploy to divert attention in the nuclear dispute.
“We don’t need lengthy letters from the Iranian president,” the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Gregory Schulte, told a news conference in Geneva.
“What they need to do is to suspend (enrichment) activities that have given the international community such concern. They need to start cooperating fully with the IAEA.”
The IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, says it cannot confirm Iran’s aims are wholly peaceful because Tehran has not been transparent. But it has found no hard proof of an arms project.
Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said in Greece that a long-standing proposal for Tehran to enrich uranium on Russian soil still offered a possible way out of the stand-off.
“As far as the Russian plan is concerned … our position is that it can go ahead but they have to give us more time to get a positive result with the Russians,” Larijani told reporters.
Past talks have foundered because Iran has demanded to keep some enrichment at home, something Western states rule out.
Larijani also praised Russia and China, saying: “Some countries act more realistically. Others create headaches.”
China, which like Russia has big energy interests in Iran, repeated its call for negotiations to end the dispute but also called on Iran to cooperate with IAEA investigations to restore international confidence in its intentions.
China’s Xinhua news agency said Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing also urged restraint from all sides, showing no signs that Beijing had shifted from its opposition to the U.S.-backed resolution that would invoke Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter.
Chapter 7 allows for sanctions and even war, but a further separate resolution is required to specify either step.
The United States has refused to rule out military action but Schulte reiterated that it wanted a diplomatic resolution.
“People hear Chapter 7 and they think they hear bombers flying overhead. Well, Chapter 7 does a couple of things — it allows economic sanctions and non-military actions to provide for enforcement. That’s the part of Chapter 7 we are looking at.
“We are looking to achieve a diplomatic solution, we are not looking to achieve a military one,” Schulte said.
Britain’s new foreign minister, Margaret Beckett, said no one intended to take military action but refused to describe such a prospect as “inconceivable”.
(Additional reporting by Parinoosh Arami in Tehran, Kate Kelland in London, Karolos Grohmann in Athens, Karin Strohecker in Berlin, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and the U.N. bureau)