Bloomberg: United Nations Security Council talks over a further set of sanctions on Iran will proceed, even after a U.S. intelligence assessment that the country halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago, European nations said. By James G. Neuger and Alan Crawford
Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) — United Nations Security Council talks over a further set of sanctions on Iran will proceed, even after a U.S. intelligence assessment that the country halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago, European nations said.
Iran continues to violate UN calls for a suspension of uranium enrichment, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana’s spokeswoman, Cristina Gallach, said in an interview in Brussels today. On a parallel track, Solana will continue “to try to create the conditions to start formal negotiations” with Iran over suspending the program, Gallach said.
Solana emerged “disappointed” from talks last week with Iran’s new nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and said he would only meet him again “if circumstances permit.”
In a report released yesterday, U.S. intelligence agencies said Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and probably can’t produce enough uranium for a bomb until 2010 at the earliest. White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said the report may complicate President George W. Bush’s drive for stiffer international sanctions.
While the U.S. intelligence report will color the political judgments made by the international community over Iran, it relates to the past and isn’t directly linked to the UN sanctions process, Gallach said.
“The fundamentals of the policy: I don’t think there is an alteration,” she said. The U.K., France and Germany echoed that view today.
Iran’s government described as “baseless” the U.S. agencies’ assertion that the country ever had a nuclear-weapons program. Iran “didn’t have the activity for it to be stopped in 2003,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in a live interview on Iranian state television.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the report was “correct that Iran appeared in 2003 to halt for a certain period of time its military nuclear program,” though Iran had since renewed it, he told Israel Army Radio today.
The U.S. report should be used to get negotiations between the U.S. and Iranian governments under way to “defuse the current crisis,” the UN atomic agency said.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei “urges all parties concerned to enter without delay into negotiations,” according to an e-mail from the Vienna- based UN agency. “Such negotiations are needed to build confidence about the future of Iran’s nuclear program.”
Push for Sanctions
The U.S. and its European allies are pushing Russia and China — both permanent members of the UN Security Council — to back further punitive measures against Iran, which they accuse of seeking to build an atomic bomb.
Bush and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, discussed Iran’s nuclear program during telephone talks today, Interfax news service reported.
Russia has offered to supply enriched uranium for Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power station in its own attempt to persuade the country to suspend its own production of the fuel, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview. Putin is meeting with Jalili in Moscow today.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked with her counterparts in China and Germany by telephone about Iran’s nuclear program.
`Diplomacy and Dialogue’
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi reiterated to Rice the that the UN Security Council should “focus on diplomacy and dialogue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing.
Fellow permanent Security Council members, the U.K. and France, plus Germany, stressed the need to keep up the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.
The U.S. intelligence report “confirms we were right to be concerned about Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons,” Michael Ellam, Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s spokesman, told reporters in London today following a weekly Cabinet meeting in which Iran was discussed. “It also shows that the sanctions and international pressure had an effect,” Ellam said.
UN Security Council members based earlier decisions to introduce economic sanctions against Iran on evidence provided by the IAEA, French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani told reporters in Paris today.
“Our position remains unchanged,” Andreani said. “We must continue to put pressure on Iran. We’re going to continue elaborating a resolution of constraining measures within the UN framework.”
That view was shared in Berlin, where Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had phone talks with Rice late yesterday, according to a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.
Germany believes the Security Council’s dual approach of giving incentives to Iran while at the same time holding out sanctions has proved to be right, the spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity.