Iran Nuclear NewsU.S. and allies court Russia and China to help...

U.S. and allies court Russia and China to help curb Iran

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New York Times: The United States joined with several European allies on Friday in a drive to enlist Russian and Chinese support to apply new pressure on Iran to halt its suspected nuclear weapons activities, American and European diplomats said. New York Times

By STEVEN R. WEISMAN

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 – The United States joined with several European allies on Friday in a drive to enlist Russian and Chinese support to apply new pressure on Iran to halt its suspected nuclear weapons activities, American and European diplomats said.

The diplomats said the new effort was aimed at stopping Iran from resuming “research” on enriching uranium on Monday, as it had threatened to do, a step that the United States and its European partners have warned could end the possibility of further negotiations.

A part of the diplomatic efforts expected this weekend, some diplomats said, was an effort led by the United States, Britain and France to persuade Russia and China to endorse their conclusion that the evidence showed that Tehran intended to build nuclear weapons.

A declaration on Iran by these five countries would carry enormous weight, the diplomats said, because they are the five major nuclear weapons powers and are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, which has the power to impose penalties on Iran.

The effort to produce a unified declaration by the permanent members of the Security Council was begun in early December but was intensified this week in response to a series of incendiary comments by Iranian leaders about Israel and their nuclear program. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated this week that the American objective remained to refer the problem of Iran’s nuclear activities to the Security Council for possible penalties, and that Washington was awaiting a consensus to form that would include the Russians and the Chinese.

American officials say that point has not yet been reached, but add that the Russians have moved closer to the American view, in part because Iran rebuffed a Russian compromise proposal to establish a joint Russian-Iranian uranium enrichment program, but on Russian soil.

“It’s becoming clear that the Iranians are determined to move forward with their program and effectively end negotiations,” said a Western diplomat, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the subject. “The Russians are more central players at this point, because they’re most frustrated about Iranian behavior.

“They put their proposal out there, and it’s unceremoniously swept aside,” the diplomat said of the Russian offer. “They’re feeling angry and insulted.”

A European diplomat, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the negotiations, said that Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was himself angered by the behavior of a top Iranian envoy in a meeting this week in Vienna.

The Iranian intention to pursue “research” activities was announced earlier in the week, and it left many in the West puzzled and angry. Several said they were not sure whether these activities would encompass the actual enrichment of uranium, a step that the West has said would cross a “red line” and invite retaliatory action at the atomic energy agency.

A last-minute Russian effort to persuade Iran not to undertake research activities or take any other steps, like breaking the seals on its facilities, was being carried out in a low-key mission by a Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei Kisliak, who was in Tehran this weekend.

A Western diplomat said if Iran did anything connected to uranium enrichment, “They’ve effectively ended negotiations” with the Europeans. It was not immediately clear whether Russia or China would join the effort to increase pressure on Iran by imposing or threatening penalties. China, in particular, was said to be resisting any such campaign.

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