Reuters: Western powers on the Security Council were optimistic on Tuesday that an agreement could be reached on Iran’s nuclear ambitions before their foreign ministers discuss the issue this week. By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Western powers on the Security Council were optimistic on Tuesday that an agreement could be reached on Iran’s nuclear ambitions before their foreign ministers discuss the issue this week.
But a deal has not been struck yet between Russia, China and the United States, Britain and France, the five permanent council members on Iran’s nuclear research program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purpose but the West believes is a cover for bomb making.
Still, Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry told reporters, “We are progressing on the text quite well.”
Asked if agreement was possible before the ministers meet in Berlin on Thursday, Jones Parry said, “Chances of that are much better now than they were last night.”
French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere agreed. “This morning we were making progress,” he said.
But Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Andrei Denisov cautioned against expectations of agreement as soon as Tuesday, saying, “I think not. Too early. But things are propelling in the right direction.”
One remaining obstacle, diplomats said, was a provision in the draft statement saying weapons of mass destruction were a threat to international peace and security.
Russia believes this could be a prelude to punitive measures and may want to leave that for the Thursday meeting among the ministers of the permanent five and Germany, a negotiator with Iran.
‘PERMANENT FIVE’ MEET
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the five would meet later on Tuesday to “look over some new text” and said his own compromise proposals made on Monday were well received.
Russia, backed by China, opposes heavy Security Council involvement on Iran and prefers that the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, deal with the crisis. Moscow last week proposed gutting a large part of the draft that asks Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment efforts, which could produce weapons-grade fuel.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, returning from a trip to Africa, told reporters, “The issue is really who should deal with the file — whether it is at the technical level at the IAEA or should it come to the council…”
“I think the council itself is very much engaged in this and is fully seized of the matter,” Annan said. “But there are lot of technical aspects of the issue, which the atomic agency should continue to deal with.”
In London, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw sought to assure Russia and China about possible military action if the Security Council.
“As to the possibility of this leading to another Iraq, it won’t. I have made clear often enough that I don’t regard military action as appropriate or indeed conceivable,” he said.
“Nor do I believe there would be any international consensus on that and I think Russia and China are well reassured on that,” Straw said.”
(Additional reporting by Madeleine Chambers in London)