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US will set a high bar for EU-Iran nuclear deal: State Department

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AFP: The United States welcomes European efforts to convince Iran to abandon its alleged nuclear weapons program, but will set a high bar to verify Iran’s compliance, a senior US State Department official said Thursday. Nicholas Burns, the State Department’s undersecretary for political affairs, said in congressional testimony that the United States was grateful for the “patient, principled diplomacy” by the “European Union Three” AFP

WASHINGTON – The United States welcomes European efforts to convince Iran to abandon its alleged nuclear weapons program, but will set a high bar to verify Iran’s compliance, a senior US State Department official said Thursday.

Nicholas Burns, the State Department’s undersecretary for political affairs, said in congressional testimony that the United States was grateful for the “patient, principled diplomacy” by the “European Union Three” — France, Germany and the United Kingdom — in negotiating with Iran, which has announced it will resume uranium conversion work, in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT.)

But Burns signaled US skepticism about whether a mutually acceptable agreement can be reached, and expressed doubts about Tehran’s motives.

“The bar for Iran must be set very high because of its history of deception” in years of concealing its nuclear program, Burns told member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“We see no sign Iran has made the necessary strategic decision to abandon its nuclear weapons program,” Burns said.

“Iran’s repeated brinksmanship in its negotiations with the European Union Three … is part of Iran’s continuing effort to divide the international community, weaken our resolve and avoid adhering to its international obligations,” he said.

Even if the parties ultimately reach a resolution, Burns said Washington would be unlikely simply to accept any such agreement on face value.

“If we don’t trust, we really must verify,” Burns said.

The senior US diplomat made his remarks as the European Union ratcheted up pressure on Tehran, ahead of crisis talks between the two sides next week.

Iran has agreed to hold off resuming the uranium conversion work until after next week’s emergency talks, which were called by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, France’s Michel Barnier and Germany’s Joschka Fischer.

The EU-Iran negotiations are being watched closely by the United States, which believes Iran is using atomic energy as a convenient cover for weapons development.

Iran insists however that its uranium enrichment efforts are aimed at generating electricity and is a “right” enjoyed by any NPT signatory.

Burns said that both Europe and the United States speak with one voice on the need to prevent an Iranian nuclear military program, which he said “threatens the peace and security of the United States, our friends and allies and the stability of the entire region.”

“President (George W.) Bush on his recent visits to Europe and Moscow heard a clear commitment from our friends and allies: We share the goal of denying Iran a nuclear weapon ad recognized that there must be consequences should Tehran fail to adhere to its international commitments,” said Burns.

The State Department official said Iran’s nuclear ambitions are just one of several vexing areas Washington confronts in its dealings with the Islamic republic. Another major concern, he said, is Tehran’s continued alleged links to extremist groups, including “some of the world’s most deadly terrorist organizations.”

“Iran continues to hold senior Al-Qaeda leaders who wanted for murdering Americans and others in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings and for plotting to kill countless others,” Burns said.

“Iran should immediately turn over to face justice all Al-Qaeda related terrorists in its custody or on Iranian soil to appropriate jurisdictions,” said Burns.

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