AP: The Bush administration renewed its claim Wednesday that the United States and European allies have enough support from other countries to take Iran before the U.N. Security Council but also indicated some key nations have not committed to that course.
By ANNE GEARAN
AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Bush administration renewed its claim Wednesday that the United States and European allies have enough support from other countries to take Iran before the U.N. Security Council but also indicated some key nations have not committed to that course.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States is encouraging Russia and other nations to vote to refer Iran’s case to the Security Council when the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency holds an emergency meeting on the issue next week.
“We believe it’s time. Many other members of the international community believe it’s time, as well,” McCormack said.
Russia, India and China are allies and trading partners of Iran who have been reluctant to see Tehran punished or ostracized through the Security Council. All three sit on the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which meets in Vienna, Austria, on Feb. 2.
“Right now, we’re talking with the Russians, as well as others, about what the diplomatic next steps should be,” McCormack said.
President Bush, meanwhile, expressed doubts about Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, citing in particular his statements calling for elimination of the state of Israel. “I am very concerned about a president of a great country like Iran declaring his intent, or his interest in the destruction of one of our closest allies,” Bush said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “And that should be of concern to people who care for the peace around the world.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will have a chance to lobby her Russian and Chinese counterparts Monday, during a special meeting on Iran in London.
As for India, the U.S. ambassador there said a landmark nuclear energy deal between India and the United States will fail in Washington if New Delhi supports Iran in the IAEA vote.
The deal, seen as a cornerstone of the emerging alliance between India and the United States, “will die in the Congress,” U.S. Ambassador David Mulford said.
McCormack put the issue more delicately.
“We would certainly encourage and we would hope that India would vote for referral to the Security Council,” McCormack said.
“We deal with the Indian government on these two issues as separate issues. Certainly, they come up in the same conversations; I’ll tell you that.”
The administration also stressed that the mere act of referring Iran’s case to the powerful U.N. body, which can impose a range of sanctions or other measures, may be enough to persuade Tehran to give up disputed nuclear activities.
“It changes the dynamic to have the Iranian weapons program in the spotlight in the Security Council rather than considered at a technical agency in the U.N.,” U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton told reporters in Washington.
Russia has said the Iran issue should be resolved at the level of the IAEA, which has repeatedly sent inspectors to Iran to survey what Tehran insists is a purely peaceful program to develop the know-how to produce nuclear energy. The United States says Iran really wants to build a bomb and must be prevented from mastering aspects of nuclear technology that could be misused.
Even if the U.S. and its allies prevail in scheduling and winning a vote at the IAEA, it is not clear that the Security Council would then vote for severe penalties. The United States is not pushing for tough economic sanctions now but has not specified what action it wants instead.
Iran’s top nuclear negotiator seemed to warm to a Russian proposal Wednesday that could defuse the nuclear crisis, but he said the plan needs work. Ali Larijani said Tehran and Moscow could discuss the proposal further next month – just when the Security Council could take up the Iranian case.
“Over the years, they have made every effort to try to avoid being referred to the Security Council,” McCormack said. “I think this is just one more move that they are making.”
Russia has offered to perform sensitive uranium enrichment on Iran’s behalf, a compromise that would let Iran pursue legitimate civilian nuclear technology.
Larijani also repeated a threat that any attempt to refer Iran to the Security Council would lead the country to move forward with a full-scale uranium enrichment program.
Meanwhile, the former U.N. chief weapons inspector who turned out to be right that Iraq did not posses unconventional weapons was skeptical of taking Iran to the Security Council.
“I think that would harden Iran’s attitude,” Hans Blix said. “It doesn’t help very much to go to the council.”
Blix, a Swedish diplomat who once ran the IAEA, spoke in Washington at the 25th anniversary of the Arms Control Association, a private group.