Reuters: Western powers meet in London on Monday to discuss tightening U.N. sanctions on Iran amid a flurry of tough and sometimes colourful talk between Washington and Tehran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme.
By Sophie Walker
LONDON (Reuters) – Western powers meet in London on Monday to discuss tightening U.N. sanctions on Iran amid a flurry of tough and sometimes colourful talk between Washington and Tehran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Iran had “no brake and no reverse gear”, prompting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to say Tehran needed a “stop button” for a programme the West fears is geared to producing nuclear arms.
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said all options were on the table following Iran’s refusal to heed a U.N. deadline for halting uranium enrichment. An Iranian deputy foreign minister responded by saying Iran was prepared even for war.
The dollar hit a two-month low against the euro of $1.3198 and a seven-week trough versus a basket of currencies , partly weighed by oil prices which climbed for a fourth day on mounting tension on Iran.
British officials hosting Monday’s talks of the five permanent United Nations Security Council members plus Germany say they are resolved to tackle the issue using diplomacy.
“I am quite clear the Americans want to resolve this through diplomatic means, want to exert every effort to addressing our common concerns and resolving them through political, diplomatic, economic measures,” a senior British official said.
Washington has deployed a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf with supporting warships, a move widely seen as a warning to Iran.
Cheney said during a visit to Australia that it would be a “serious mistake” to allow Iran to become a nuclear power.
The New Yorker magazine said a Pentagon panel has been created to plan a bombing attack that could be implemented within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from President George W. Bush.
The special planning group was established within the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in recent months, according to an unidentified former U.S. intelligence official cited in the article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh.
Iran insists it is entitled to nuclear power to generate electricity and wants to negotiate with the Europeans and even Washington without giving up its right to enrich uranium.
The West suspects Tehran is trying to build an atomic arsenal and says the fact that it kept its nuclear programme secret for 18 years until 2002 and its lack of cooperation with U.N. inspectors show ill intent.
The London meeting is likely to discuss adding a travel ban on senior Iranian officials and restrictions on non-nuclear business to existing sanctions banning transfers of nuclear technology.
U.N. sanctions were slapped on Iran in December, barring the transfer of technology and know-how to the country’s nuclear and missile programme. That resolution said further measures could follow if Iran refused to halt enrichment by Feb. 21.
Government sources said support for business with Iran — some $20 billion worth of export credits provided by European agencies — would be looked at closely, as would arms exports.
Senior British officials say they are encouraged by signs that the U.N. sanctions are having an impact in Tehran.
“President Ahmadinejad’s standing seems to have diminished and I think that’s helpful for rational discussion and debate,” said one.