Iran Nuclear NewsUN hints at talks, not sanctions, as Iran nuclear...

UN hints at talks, not sanctions, as Iran nuclear deadline passes


The Times: Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, begins a controversial visit to Iran today as European powers appeared to back away from immediate sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programme. The Times

By James Bone in New York

KOFI ANNAN, the UN Secretary-General, begins a controversial visit to Iran today as European powers appeared to back away from immediate sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programme.

On the eve of his two-day trip, Mr Annan suggested that some powers may be ready to start talks with Iran despite its rejection of the UN deadline of Thursday to halt its uranium enrichment work.

“I know that there are attempts being made to organise a meeting between Iran and the other six players,” Mr Annan said on a stop in Jordan. “Even though the deadline has expired I don’t think the [UN Security”> Council is going to act tomorrow.”

Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, is due to meet Ali Larijani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, in Berlin on Wednesday. Senior officials from the six powers trying to resolve the stand-off — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — will meet in the German capital the following day to decide their next step.

Mr Solana cautioned yesterday against making concrete moves on sanctions while he was engaged in talks with Tehran. “Since we are going to have a period of talks, during this time it would not be reasonable to move on with sanctions,” he said on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Finland.

John Bolton, the American Ambassador to the UN, said that discussions on possible sanctions had been put on hold until after the Solana-Larijani meeting. Despite its previous commitment to consider sanctions, Russia spoke out clearly yesterday against coercive measures against Tehran.

“We take into account the experience of the past and we cannot ally ourselves with ultimatums, which all lead to a dead end,” Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, said. “Yes, there are countries whose policies cause discontent, but we need to . . . draw them into dialogue, and not isolation and sanctions.”

Dominique de Villepin, the French Prime Minister, said after talks in Rome with Romano Prodi, the Italian Prime Minister, that he regretted very strongly what he called Iran’s insufficient response. He added: “We think it is possible to go forward with dialogue, but it is important that the international community shows Iran the necessity to change position.”

Margaret Beckett, the British Foreign Secretary, said that she still hoped for a negotiated solution based on the package of incentives offered to Iran by the six powers in June. But she raised the spectre of Security Council action.

America, which takes the toughest line on Iran, said that it planned to press ahead with UN sanctions — even though Russia could exercise its veto in the 15-nation Security Council.

“We’re in consultations with the EU and other governments about what the first sanctions could be,” Mr Bolton said. “One possibility is . . . a relatively small number of sanctions escalated over time. Another option is a very tough sanctions resolution as the first one. We haven’t made any decision.”

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