Iran Nuclear NewsGates scoffs at Iran nuclear claim

Gates scoffs at Iran nuclear claim

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ImageNew York Times: As Iran’s foreign minister met with the chief of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency here, the United States and Germany rejected Iran’s assertion that it was close to accepting an international compromise on its nuclear program. The New York Times

By NICHOLAS KULISH and THOM SHANKER

ImageMUNICH — As Iran’s foreign minister met with the chief of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency here, the United States and Germany rejected Iran’s assertion that it was close to accepting an international compromise on its nuclear program.

Western officials expressed deep skepticism toward Tehran’s contention that a deal was close for having uranium enriched abroad for Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, said that the Iranians presented no new proposal or counterproposal during a meeting on the sidelines of a security conference here Saturday.

“Dialogue is continuing,” Mr. Amano said. “It should be accelerated. That’s the point.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that actions by Iranian leaders did not back up their conciliatory public statements. “Based on the information that I have, I don’t have the sense we are close to an agreement,” he said at the conclusion of talks with Turkish leaders in Ankara.

As if to press that point, one of the topics on the defense secretary’s agenda was how Turkey might join a NATO-wide missile defense system, which would be focused on the possibility of an attack from Iran.

Mr. Gates was asked to respond to comments made Friday by Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, who had told the politicians and military leaders attending the security conference here in Munich that his nation might be close to a deal to have uranium enriched abroad.

Mr. Gates scoffed at the statement, saying such public talk of compromise did not match Iran’s dealings with the atomic energy agency or its stance in continuing, multilateral negotiations to make certain that Tehran could never build a nuclear weapon.

But Mr. Amano called his meeting with Mr. Mottaki “a very interesting discussion,” adding that “the I.A.E.A. absolutely can play a role as an impartial, good office.”

Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, who met with Mr. Mottaki on Friday, said Saturday at the same conference in Munich that his discussions with the Iranian delegation had “not made me change my mind” about Iran’s intentions.

Speaking on the very stage occupied the night before by Mr. Mottaki, President Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, said that Iran’s “puzzling defiance” compelled “all of us to work together as allies and partners on a second track of increased pressure.”

General Jones said, “Indeed, the unprecedented level of international consensus and unity on Iran with regard to its nuclear program demonstrates that Tehran must meet its responsibilities or face stronger sanctions and perhaps even deeper isolation.”

But that consensus is not as complete as the United States and its Western allies would like to portray it. China, in particular, has resisted calls for new sanctions, saying it would prefer to continue negotiating. That stance was reiterated in Munich on Friday by China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, who said, “It’s better for us now to concentrate on consultation and dialogue.”

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said Saturday that he met with Mr. Mottaki for more than an hour the day before and stressed that Iran must cooperate with the atomic energy agency and answer the agency’s pending questions. Russia has been increasingly frustrated by Iran’s recalcitrance.

Iran continues to violate the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Mr. Gates said Saturday in Turkey, and he indicated that it might be time to move toward tougher economic sanctions.

“The reality is they have done nothing to reassure the international community that they are prepared to comply with the N.P.T. or stop their progress toward a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Gates said.

If Iran is serious, the defense secretary said, it should immediately turn over its stated stockpile of low-enriched uranium to the atomic energy agency.

The longer Iran continues to enrich that radioactive material, he noted, the value of current proposals as a means to offer security reassurances “is diminishing.”

On Saturday at the conference, Mr. Mottaki said that he had “a very good meeting” earlier in the day for half an hour with Mr. Amano about the enrichment proposal. Mr. Mottaki repeated his statement that an agreement was near and said that the agency would play “the major role” in the exchange of fuel.

“Now there is the political will among the parties involved for proceeding,” Mr. Mottaki said. In response to critical comments by the speaker of Iran’s Parliament, Ali Larijani, about a possible deal, Mr. Mottaki said, “In Iran, there is only one voice about the issue, and that is the exchange of fuel has been accepted and recognized.”

Mr. Mottaki continued to insist that, under any deal, Iran would determine the amount of uranium enriched abroad. “It is very common that in business a buyer talks about the quantity and the seller only offers the price,” he said. “We determine the quantity on the basis of our needs, and we would inform the parties about our requirements.”

Nicholas Kulish reported from Munich, and Thom Shanker from Ankara, Turkey.

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