Friday, February 25, 2005

U.S. May Give EU Till June to Coax Iran on Nukes

Louis Charbonneau, Reuters:
In its drive to stop Iran gaining any ability to make nuclear weapons, the United States is ready to give European allies only until June to cajole Tehran before Washington seeks U.N. sanctions, U.S. diplomatic documents show.

U.S. officials in Vienna circulated a position paper for discussion to members of the U.N. nuclear watchdog's governing board on Thursday, as President Bush concluded a tour of Europe in which he repeatedly praised European Union efforts to persuade Tehran to give up on enriching uranium.

Washington will not push the International Atomic Energy Agency board to refer Iran's case to the Security Council when it meets next week and no resolutions condemning the Islamic republic are expected to be adopted then, diplomats on the 35-nation board told Reuters.

But the next quarterly meeting in June will be different.

The draft position paper, seen in full by Reuters, shows Washington is ready to give EU-Iran negotiations until that meeting to achieve their aim. If they fail, it will renew its campaign to have the IAEA refer Iran to the Security Council.

Before the June meeting, the United States wants IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to report again on Iran's nuclear program:

"We believe it is essential that the director-general provide to the board in advance of the June board meeting another comprehensive written report describing in full the IAEA's inspection activities in Iran," the document said.

"The board in June must then be prepared to take further action as needed," it added, a phrase diplomats said meant referral to the Security Council in New York. ...

However, a senior British official told reporters in London on condition of anonymity the Europeans need an "objective guarantee" that Iran will not pursue atomic weapons.

"The only objective guarantee worthy of its name is a permanent cessation of fuel cycle activities," he said.

Tehran's chief negotiator, Hassan Rohani, predicted a fourth round of talks with the EU trio in March would yield positive results: "We are confident that with effective measures from all four sides, we can see a positive result in March," he said after talks with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.

But in comments published in the French newspaper Le Monde after a meeting in Paris on Thursday, he said talks were going slowly: "In a general, I note that the Europeans are incapable of coming good on their promises," he was quoted as saying. ...