Monday, March 20, 2006

Iran Reformists Urge Nuke Freeze

Agence France-Presse:
Iran's largest reformist party has called for dialogue with the US and a freeze on sensitive nuclear work to head off an escalating crisis with the international community.

"In order to break the international consensus, we are proposing a return to previous policies and the voluntary suspension of all nuclear fuel cycle work to resolve this crisis and re-establish confidence," said the Participation Front, which is headed by Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of Iran's former reformist president Mohammad Khatami. READ MORE

The UN Security Council is considering what action to take against Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process that creates fuel for nuclear power stations but can also be the core of an atomic weapon.

Top foreign ministry officials from the five veto-wielding members of the council and Germany are due to meet in New York tomorrow to plot a long-term strategy on the crisis.

The US suspects Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons, charges denied by the clerical regime in Tehran, which has become increasingly isolated since hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in August.

Tomorrow's meeting is being held amid signs on progress in the 15-member security council in efforts to reach agreement on a revised Franco-British draft urging Iran to comply with demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it restore international confidence in the peaceful nature of its atomic program.

The text aims to reinforce the IAEA demands, including immediate suspension of all uranium enrichment activities and resumption of implementation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's additional protocol that allows for wider inspections of nuclear facilities.

France and Britain hope the draft can be adopted by the full council next week.

"Dialogue with all the influential nations on the security council, including the United States, is a way of resolving this crisis that we cannot ignore," the Participation Front said in a statement published in Iranian newspapers.

Iran said on Friday it was willing to hold talks with its archenemy the US on the worsening situation in neighbouring Iraq, but Washington has so far insisted there would be no negotiations on other issues.

"The nation's leaders apparently want dialogue with the United States not only on Iraq but on other issues," the Participation Front said, calling for "complete transparency" in any talks.

In recent weeks, former presidents Khatami and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani have criticised Mr Ahmadinejad's foreign policies and warned against the increasing isolation of the Islamic republic, which remains a major player on the regional political scene.

Last week leading Iranian reformist cleric and former parliament speaker Mehdi Karrubi criticised Mr Ahmadinejad's stance, warning that sanctions would lead to "great difficulties".