AFP: Foreign ministers of the world’s most powerful countries were gathered in Berlin Thursday to demonstrate a united front over Iran’s disputed nuclear program after a breakthrough deal at the UN. BERLIN, March 30, 2006 (AFP) – Foreign ministers of the world’s most powerful countries were gathered in Berlin Thursday to demonstrate a united front over Iran’s disputed nuclear program after a breakthrough deal at the UN.
The talks bring together Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — the United Nations Security Council’s five veto-wielding permanent members (P-5) — plus Germany, one of three European powers that have pursued nuclear talks with Tehran.
The 15-member Security Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a non-binding statement giving Iran 30 days to abandon its uranium enrichment activities, ending a weeks-long impasse.
Germany called the talks in Berlin to map out a long-term strategy on how to contend with Iran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment, which could be used to build a nuclear bomb.
The working lunch in Berlin will bring together US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Jack Straw of Britain, Philippe Douste-Blazy of France, Sergei Lavrov of Russia, Chinese deputy foreign minister Dai Bingguo and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
A diplomatic source said the aim of the gathering was to express the “international community’s grave concerns about Iran’s nuclear program but also its unity” in its approach to Tehran.
The UN agreement was seen as a key step in demonstrating that unity.
Washington and European powers believe Iran has ambitions of building a nuclear bomb, which they argue would destabilize the entire region.
Tehran vehemently denies the charge and says its nuclear program has purely civilian aims.
The UN talks had been marred by differences between the United States and its Western allies on the one hand and Russia and China on the other over exactly how to bring pressure to bear on Tehran.
The statement that finally prevailed is a watered-down version of a Franco-British statement that calls on Iran to meet demands from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
It expresses clear concern about suspicion that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons covertly, demands that Iran comply with the wishes of the IAEA governing board and calls for an IAEA report within 30 days.
The council would then discuss the report further.
The non-binding declaration was seen as a bid to placate Russia and China, which have opposed any hint of punitive measures against Iran, an ally and key trading partner.
Lavrov issued a stern warning Wednesday that any attempt at using force or coercion to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program would be counter-productive.
“Any ideas about a coercive, forceful solution to the issue are highly counter-productive and cannot be supported,” Lavrov said.
“We are aiming for the Security Council to do what is necessary on a professional, not a politicized, basis.”
Rice greeted the Security Council statement as “unmistakeably clear”.
She added that the international community expects Iran to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s call to suspend its uranium enrichment-related activities and to return to negotiations.
Rice, who is also to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, will continue on to Paris and London on a European tour focused heavily on Iran.
Britain, France and Germany — known as the EU-3 — pursued three years of inconclusive negotiations to coax Tehran away from its nuclear program in exchange for economic incentives.
Diplomacy has reached a critical point since Tehran announced in January it was resuming sensitive research on uranium enrichment that it had suspended for two years.