New York Times: Europe’s leading nations, yielding to American demands for a tougher stance on Iran, warned
Friday that any failure by the Iranian government to give up its suspected nuclear arms program would leave them “no choice” but to seek punishments at the United Nations
Security Council. New York Times
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN
WASHINGTON – Europe’s leading nations, yielding to American demands for a tougher stance on Iran, warned Friday that any failure by the Iranian government to give up its suspected nuclear arms program would leave them “no choice” but to seek punishments at the United Nations Security Council.
The European warning came as a diplomatic counterpart to a statement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirming that the United States, too, had shifted its position on Iran – in its case toward a more conciliatory approach of offering limited economic incentives if Iran cooperated on nuclear matters.
Ms. Rice said Mr. Bush would drop his objections to Iran’s application to the World Trade Organization and would “consider, on a case-by-case basis, the licensing of spare parts of Iranian civilian aircraft.”
“We share the desire of European governments to secure Iran’s adherence to its obligations through peaceful and diplomatic means,” she said in the statement. “Today’s announcement demonstrates that we are prepared to take practical steps to support European efforts to this end.”
Taken together, the statements, issued in an orchestrated fashion in Washington and Brussels, opened a new phase in efforts to defuse the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.
Now that Europe and the United States are in harmony on specific incentives and threats, there is an expectation that talks can move forward. In the last two years Iran’s nuclear program has moved up on the agenda for the United States and Europe, but there has been a gulf over how sternly to deal with it.
European officials said the agreement’s importance went beyond Iran, because it showed that President Bush had decided to throw his support behind the effort. What that also represented, some in the administration acknowledged, was a White House move to restrain administration hawks for now.
Ms. Rice and other officials acknowledged that Mr. Bush moved only after becoming convinced that he was in danger of being blamed if the talks failed because he had repeatedly rebuffed European demands to join in the incentives.
The administration has been sensitive to the charge by conservatives and others that going too far to placate the Europeans could put the administration in the position of legitimizing Iran’s government, overlooking its links to terrorism and rewarding it for bad behavior.
But Ms. Rice and other officials said the administration’s view of Iran as a rogue state was unchanged. All that had changed, she said, was the way of dealing with Iran.
No timetable was set for negotiations. Ms. Rice and other officials hinted that a quick deadline might force Iran to walk away and resume suspended uranium enrichment.
A European official, endorsing that view, said: “Iran right now has suspended its activities, verified by inspections. That means we don’t have to be in such a hurry. If the Iranians try to cheat, we’re in a position to know it.”
American and European officials also emphasized Friday that their joint agreement meant that, at some point in talks, the West would raise concerns about Iran’s support of Hezbollah and other groups.
The announcements, a culmination of weeks of negotiations led by Ms. Rice, clarified aspects of her talks. For example, American and European officials said the statements made clear that the West would not tolerate Iran’s enriching uranium for civilian nuclear energy, despite international accords that allow it.
A senior administration official said in a telephone briefing that Iran’s record of hiding an arms program in the guise of a civilian enrichment program, an allegation that Iran denies, meant that the West had to impose a much tighter rein.
European and American experts say, in addition, that there is no technical means for inspectors to keep Iran from expanding a low-level enrichment program for civilian purposes to a program for weapons.
The announcement was the second time in a week that the United States had softened its approach toward a longstanding adversary while insisting that its basic view had not changed. Earlier in the week, the administration toned down demands on Hezbollah in an effort to concentrate on getting Shiite backing for a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.
“Nobody is blind to Hezbollah’s past activities,” said a senior administration official involved at the highest level on Middle East policy, asking not to be identified because he did not want to be seen as undercutting administration approaches.
“The question is whether it pays for us to play into the hands of those who want to set us up in a confrontation with them,” he added. “If we want to increase pressure on Hezbollah to move away from terrorism, and support a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, it’s important for us to be careful about our rhetoric.”
Sometimes, awkward-looking tactical adjustments are necessary, the official said. “We are not changing our fundamental views about Iran or Hezbollah,” he added. “Our strategy is clear. What we’re looking at is how you adapt your diplomacy to fit the needs of the moment. It’s what diplomacy is all about.”