U.S., Europe Lobby to Put Pressure on Iran
George Jahn, Yahoo News:
The United States and Europe are lobbying other nations to join them this week in urging Iran to start talks on its uranium enrichment program — and in warning of U.N. Security Council action if it doesn't — documents shared with The Associated Press show.
Two position papers issued ahead of Monday's board meeting of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency reflect a concerted Western effort to persuade members of the 35-nation board to line up behind a six-nation offer to Iran to talk about its nuclear ambitions.
They also show Western commitment to secure a long-term Iranian moratorium on enrichment — which can produce fuel or the fissile core of nuclear warheads — even though Tehran initially is only asked to suspend such activity during the duration of any negotiations. READ MORE
The texts, which were circulated among board member nations ahead of this week's meeting, were shared with the AP Sunday by diplomats accredited to the gathering who demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to show them to the media.
"We are ... encouraging all board members to make firm statements to call on Iran" to negotiate on the six-power offer, said the U.S. position paper. If Tehran declines, the text warned that the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — the five permanent Security Council members — plus Germany "have agreed to pursue measures, including at the U.N. Security Council, (to) pressure the Iranian regime to change course."
The other text, issued by Britain, France and Germany, also warned that if Iran remains defiant, "the Security Council will have no choice but to increase the pressure on Iran."
"The most important step for building international confidence will be for Iran to refrain from all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities until international confidence is restored," said the European statement.
The U.S. text said the full suspension of enrichment-related and reprocessing activities was "essential if Iran is to succeed in building international confidence."
Diplomats who have been briefed on the six-nation offer told the AP that the emphasis on "rebuilding international confidence" is diplomatic language for demands for an enrichment freeze that would last years beyond the conclusion of any successful negotiations with Iran.
Long-term, verifiable suspension of enrichment is a "red line" for the United States and its key Western allies, said one of the diplomats.
Still, said the diplomats, there could be divisions on enrichment among the six powers that signed off on the Iran package of incentives and potential punishments in Vienna earlier this month.
China, Russia, and potentially Germany, may be prepared to push to allow Iran some tightly controlled small-scale enrichment rather than to see negotiations founder. Additionally, Russia and China might balk at enforcing the penalties part of the package — selective U.N. sanctions imposed on Iranian officials and activities.
In Cairo, chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani told reporters that Tehran would not accept the proposal if it contains any threats of punishment in case of rejection.
He also said the demands on enrichment are "unclear," while foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said some components of the six-power package should be removed.
One of the diplomats in Vienna said the U.S.-European lobbying efforts were chiefly aimed at influential members of the Nonaligned Movement — countries such as India, Egypt, Argentina and Brazil, which carry great weight among other bloc members and have broken ranks in recent months to support Iran's referral to the Security Council.
The Nonaligned Movement, the world's biggest bloc after the United Nations, emphatically backed Iran in its nuclear standoff with the West at a foreign ministers' meeting in Malaysia last month.
Iran insists it will not give up its right to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel as allowed by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory.
Delegates to the board meeting at the IAEA's Vienna headquarters are not expected to focus on Iran until midweek, after they have dealt with other matters, mostly technical.
They will review the two latest reports by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei focusing on Iran's enrichment efforts and documenting lack of progress by agency inspectors seeking information on activities and documents that could be linked to a nuclear weapons program.
The board forwarded Iran's nuclear file to the Security Council early this year and after a series of IAEA board resolutions taking Iran to task for hindering probes into its nuclear program and more recently urging it to re-impose a freeze on enrichment.