Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Britain, France Press Iran on Nuclear Program

Katherine Baldwin and Timothy Heritage, Reuters:
Britain and France put new pressure on Iran on Tuesday to obey international rules over its nuclear programme and underlined the intention of the United States and European powers to ensure it does so.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow also shared the goal of preventing nuclear proliferation, but he cautioned against doing anything that might threaten the work of the U.N. nuclear agency in Iran.

Lavrov gave no hint after talks in Paris that Russia was about to abandon cooperation with Tehran on a nuclear plant it is building in Iran, despite calls to do so by Washington. READ MORE

The United States and European powers suspect Iran is trying to develop nuclear arms but Iran denies this, saying its programme is purely for peaceful purposes.

"They (Iran) have to abide by the rules of the international community on their nuclear capability. They have to stop support for terrorism, whether it's in the Middle East or elsewhere," Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London.

"I think they would make a great mistake if they thought the international community lacked the will to make sure that is done," he told a news conference.

Douste-Blazy said in Paris that Iran must abide by an agreement reached in the French capital almost a year ago to halt all activities related to uranium enrichment, a process that creates atomic fuel for power plants or weapons.

"We simply want two things -- that the international community is as united as possible and to explain to Iran that our aim is not crisis, but negotiations," Douste-Blazy said after talks with Lavrov and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov.

"We want to explain to Iran that the Paris agreement of November 2004 must continue to be respected."


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to meet British and French leaders this week to try to agree a joint strategy on how to curb Iran's suspected nuclear arms programme.

She also wants to shore up support for reporting Iran to the United Nations Security Council after the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency agreed to do so but failed to set a deadline for the move that could lead to sanctions.

Lavrov said Russia agreed entirely Iran must not develop nuclear weapons but said the IAEA's work in Iran, which includes inspections of sensitive sites, should not be endangered by the international community's stance.

"We must not create a situation where its work in Iran on such questions was severed. That would probably be the most serious risk," Lavrov said.

The IAEA's work must be supported "if there are no concrete facts, no more than just suspicions of violations" of international rules on non-proliferation, he added.

Iran threatened last month to start uranium enrichment and stop allowing U.N. inspections of its atomic facilities if its nuclear programme was reported to the U.N. Security Council.

Washington hopes to persuade governments involved in nuclear projects in Iran to immediately freeze those plans, clearly hoping Russia will abandon cooperation on a billion (573 million pounds) civilian nuclear reactor at Bushehr in Iran.

But Ivanov made clear that was out of the question, dismissing out of hand suggestions that Iran was enriching uranium to develop nuclear weapons.

Britain, France and Germany led negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme but talks collapsed in August. Iran insists its nuclear activities are solely for peaceful purposes.