Friday, June 02, 2006

'World Will Act in Concert' on Iran, Bush Declares in a New Warning

Benny Avni, New York Sun:
Iran has intensified its demand that any hint of punitive measures be removed from a package of "sticks and carrots" that was accepted yesterday in Vienna by representatives of the world's top powers.

Speaking at a symposium in Tehran, an Iranian nuclear negotiator, Mohammad Saeedi, said the first step toward any negotiations on Iran's nuclear development would be to take the Iranian issue off the agenda at the Security Council, where punitive measures could be imposed on Iran if the country remains intransigent.

Mr. Saeedi's statement came as Secretary of State Rice, along with her counterparts from the four other permanent members of the council and Germany, finalized an agreement on a package of incentives that would be offered to Iran if it agreed to freeze its nuclear program. The package reportedly also included punitive measures if Iran refuses to cease its uranium enrichment. READ MORE

"If they continue their obstinance, if they continue to say to the world, 'We really don't care what your opinion is,' then the world is going to act in concert," President Bush told reporters yesterday after a Cabinet meeting at the White House. Later in Vienna, diplomats from Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany, and America announced they had reached an agreement on details of the new package.

"We believe that they offered Iran the chance to reach a negotiated agreement based on cooperation," the British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, told reporters, speaking on behalf of the six countries. "We are prepared to resume negotiations should Iran resume suspension of all enrichment and reprocessing activities as required by the" International Atomic Energy Agency.

Ms. Beckett added that the agreement included "further steps" if Iran does not agree to halt its nuclear program. The Bush administration is aiming to convince Russia and China that it has exhausted all diplomatic avenues before turning to punitive measures.

A Western official said yesterday that it will take some time before diplomats at Turtle Bay reopen a Security Council proposal for a resolution on Iran. The proposed resolution, rejected by China and Russia, was based on Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which allows for enforcement of the council's will, including by imposing economic and even military sanctions.

Even if Iran rejects the latest diplomatic overtures, it is far from clear whether Russia and China would reverse their opposition, the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record, told The New York Sun.

When asked by reporters about the American proposal - announced Tuesday in a speech by Ms. Rice - to open negotiations with Iran, China's ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Guangya, said it should not have been conditioned on Iranian agreement to freeze its enrichment activity.

An American diplomat hand-delivered the text of Ms. Rice's speech to the Iranian mission to the United Nations on Tuesday. Iranian security officials refused to allow the diplomat to enter the mission, and he left it with a guard, a diplomatic source said.

"Iran welcomes dialogue under just conditions but won't give up our rights." Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said yesterday, according to state-run Iranian television.

The mullahs also added conditions of their own to any dialogue with the West. "If the world is after a friendly solution, which will lead us all to a clear framework, one step would be for the U.N. Security Council to pull its oars out of Iran's nuclear issue," Mr. Saeedi said, according Iran's Student News Agency. "The three European countries must pay attention to include the irreversible realities of Iran's issue in their suggestion," he said.

Iran reportedly has been able to reach an enrichment level of slightly higher than the 4% needed for nonweapon nuclear fuel. After they master enrichment, however, it is not difficult for scientists to raise enrichment levels to reach weapons grade, said Hans Blix, a former U.N. weapons inspector who currently heads a Swedish think tank, Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission.

"If you can reach the 4% and the technology to do that, then you can, by a simple political decision ... get up to 90%," Mr. Blix told Turtle Bay reporters yesterday. He said he does not know if the Iranians have made that decision.

However, Mr. Blix rejected the notion that it is more important to disarm countries like Iran, whose president has said publicly that he wants to wipe Israel off the map, and other countries. Such reasoning sounds like the National Rifle Association's line that guns don't kill people but those who use them, he said. "Weapons of mass destruction are dangerous wherever they are," he said. "These weapons are dangerous if anyone has them."