Reuters: European governments rebuked Iran for intransigence over its nuclear programme on Friday but expressed their desire for a negotiated solution to the row. By Alireza Ronaghi
TEHRAN (Reuters) – European governments rebuked Iran for intransigence over its nuclear programme on Friday but expressed their desire for a negotiated solution to the row.
Iran faces the threat of Security Council sanctions after the U.N.’s atomic watchdog said Tehran had refused to stop work on its nuclear programme by a deadline which passed on Thursday.
The United States is the driving force behind possible sanctions but Russia cast doubt on whether the Security Council could reach a quick consensus and said threatening Iran would lead to a “dead end”.
The five countries with permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council — China, Britain, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany will meet in Berlin on September 7 to discuss the way forward, the French foreign ministry said.
The West accuses Iran of seeking to build atomic bombs, a charge Iran denies, saying its nuclear programme is designed to produce electricity.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said any sanctions should target Iran’s leaders and its pursuit of sophisticated weapons.
“What we’re looking for are sanctions that affect the Iranian nuclear weapons program, their ballistic missile program, target the leadership and the riches that they’ve accumulated. We’re going to try and have sanctions that don’t adversely affect the Iranian people,” he told Fox News Channel.
In Europe, governments expressed varying degrees of disappointment at Iran’s stance but were united in keeping sanctions at arm’s length.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin regretted “very strongly” what he called Iran’s insufficient response.
“We think it is possible to go forward with dialogue but it is important that the international community show Iran the necessity to change position,” Villepin said after talks with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi in Rome.
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett stressed her goal was a negotiated solution on the basis of an offer by Britain, China, France, Germany and the United States of a package of incentives if Iran ceased enrichment.
The U.N. watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on Thursday that Tehran had failed to meet an August 31 deadline to halt uranium enrichment.
Iran remained defiant on Friday while saying it was open to talks over its nuclear ambitions.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran believes the only possible way to achieve fair and acceptable results for all parties is through negotiations and by respecting Iran’s legitimate rights,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.
“Iran’s activities are transparent, public and have peaceful aims far away from any ambiguities and it (the issue) can be easily solved through negotiations,” he was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
Asefi said the report showed Iran had met its commitments under international regulations, including the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and also showed Iran’s “extensive cooperation” with the IAEA.
“The claims of Western countries who say Iran seeks nuclear weapons are sheer lies because we do not need nuclear weapons,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said.
Russia said sanctions would only exacerbate the situation.
“We take into account the experience of the past and we cannot ally ourselves with ultimatums, which all lead to a dead end,” Interfax news agency quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying.
“Yes, there are countries whose policies raise doubts, and cause discontent, but we all live in the same world and we need to…draw them into dialogue, and not isolation and sanctions.”
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told Reuters he hoped to meet Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, in coming days to seek a clear answer to the major power’s proposals for broad cooperation if Tehran halted uranium enrichment.
The price of oil eased below $70 (37 pounds) a barrel on Friday on the prospect of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme receding.