Tuesday, February 14, 2006

UK Straw: Iran Crisis Could Only be Resolved By Diplomacy

Dow Jones Newswires:
Britain's foreign minister said Tuesday it was clear Iran had failed to comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but said the standoff over the country's nuclear program could only be resolved by diplomacy. Jack Straw was speaking during a trip to Nigeria, as a top Iranian nuclear negotiator said Tuesday in Tehran that his country had resumed small-scale uranium enrichment, despite international moves to restrict the country's atomic development. READ MORE

The U.S. and European Union fear Iran is attempting to make nuclear weapons. Tehran insists, however, that its nuclear program is for peaceful, power- generating purposes.

Britain, along with France and Germany, has been negotiating on behalf of the E.U. for assurances about Iran's nuclear program.

"We never claimed that there is categorical evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons capability," Straw said. But "there's categorical evidence about Iran's failure to comply with its obligations under the nonproliferation treaty, " he added, referring to the 36-year-old pact meant to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

He said, though, that "the Iran issue can only be resolved by diplomatic means."

Russia and France immediately called on Iran to halt its work and fulfill the demands of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, according to a joint statement posted on the Kremlin's Web site.

On Feb. 4, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Iran to the U.N. Security Council and simultaneously called on its government to suspend all enrichment-related activities. The Security Council has the power to impose political and economic sanctions on Iran.

On Monday, Tehran issued its third veiled threat in as many days to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Only one other country - North Korea - has ever withdrawn from the treaty.

If the international community doesn't agree to Iran's right to enrich uranium under the treaty, "there is no reason to continue our current nuclear policy while we are deprived of the positive aspects of the treaty," said a spokesman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Straw arrived in Abuja on Monday night for a three-day visit to Nigeria, and on Tuesday gave a speech discussing terrorism in Africa.