Monday, July 03, 2006

West Sets New Deadline for Iran: July 12

George Jahn, Yahoo News:
Western powers have set July 12 as a deadline for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and agree to talks on its nuclear program or face the threat of U.N. Security Council sanctions, diplomats said Monday.

Beyond revealing the deadline, the diplomats also said Russia and China were closer than ever to supporting the West on U.N. Security Council action — including sanctions — if Tehran refuses a six-power package of incentives meant to wean it off nuclear enrichment.

The envoys — some of them senior U.N. diplomats, and all familiar with details of the six nations' drive to persuade Iran to compromise on its nuclear activities — spoke just two days before a key Iran- European Union meeting in Brussels meant to make clear to the Iranians that their time is running out.

Senior EU envoy Javier Solana will urge top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani on Wednesday to immediately commit his country to suspending enrichment and starting negotiations on the six-power package, the diplomats said.

"We are looking forward to hear from Iran ... the official response," said Cristina Gallach, Solana's spokeswoman.

A European official outlined more realistic expectations, saying Larijani would likely come back with questions and perhaps a counterproposal.

If so, the diplomats said, Solana plans to tell him that Iran has until July 12 to accept the terms of the package and to offer him a final meeting before that date, when the foreign ministers of the six powers — the five permanent Security Council nations plus Germany — consult in Paris. READ MORE

"If Iran has not answered positively by this date, the ministers will likely adopt a decision to resume negotiations on the Security Council resolution," said one of the diplomats, who, like the European official, demanded anonymity because the details were confidential.

Iranian officials have said they would not respond to the six-power offer to talk before mid-August, a gambit described by one of the diplomats as an attempt to stall beyond the July 15-17 summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations hosted by Russia.

Before the summit, the United States and its allies on the Security Council — all G-8 members — "can apply pressure on Russia" to stand with the West on Iran, but that lever will be weakened after the St. Petersburg meeting, one of the diplomats said.

The European official noted that Russia and China are contemplating sending high-level officials to Wednesday's meeting in Brussels in a symbolic show of unity with the West.

Work on a resolution was suspended May 3 to allow the six powers to draw up a plan of perks if Iran agrees to a long-term moratorium on enrichment — or punishments that include the threat of selective U.N. sanctions if it doesn't.

While Iran argues it has a right to the technology under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to generate power, there is increasing international concern that Tehran wants to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels for use in the fissile core of nuclear warheads.