Saturday, April 29, 2006

EU and US Strike Different Tones on Iran

The Washington Post:
The United States and the European Union struck different tones on Saturday on how to respond to Iran's nuclear defiance while insisting they were in full agreement. Speaking at a transatlantic conference, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said no one was considering military action over Tehran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment and Europe did not want to join a "coalition of the willing" against Iran. READ MORE

Influential U.S. Senator John McCain told the Brussels Forum in a speech on Friday night: "There is only one thing worse than military action, and that is a nuclear-armed Iran."

He said the United States would not stand by and let Iran wipe out Israel, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinjenad had called for.

The Islamic republic, a major oil and gas producer, denies it aims to build a bomb and says its programme is purely for civilian energy purposes.

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, a leading Democratic foreign policy expert, said the response to Iran's nuclear programme, which the West says is aimed at making weapons, was a defining issue for transatlantic relations.

"Iran is THE test case about whether we'll have effective transatlantic cooperation," Holbrooke said.

The more divisions there were in the West and with China and Russia over Iran, the more likely it was that the United States would face the terrible choice painted by McCain, he said.


Solana, who has been involved in efforts by the EU's three main powers, Britain, France and Germany, to negotiate a solution with Tehran, said he did not believe there were differences between the United States and Europe on Iran.

NATO and EU foreign ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, had debated the issue at a meeting in Sofia on Thursday and "nobody at that point in time considered the possibility of a military solution in Iran."

He said he did not believe anyone was seeking a "coalition of the willing" to act against Iran and no European country wanted that.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried said the next step was a strong U.N. Security Council resolution.

"I cannot predict how things will come out, but that is where we are headed, united with Europe," he told reporters.

Asked why he was unwilling to talk of military action unlike McCain and Holbrooke, Solana said that he held political office and did not have the same freedom of speech.

The most important thing was to work with Russia and China to build the broadest possible consensus on a United Nations resolution raising pressure on Tehran to comply with international demands to halt nuclear enrichment.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog delivered a report on Friday saying Iran had done little or nothing to prove it was not developing nuclear arms.

It had hampered checks by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency and rebuffed requests to stop making nuclear fuel, the report by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said.