Saturday, August 19, 2006

Iran Has 'Blood on its Hands' MacKay Says

Mike Blanchfield, National Post:
With a potential international showdown looming next week in Iran's nuclear standoff with the West, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay says Tehran has "blood on its hands" for backing Hezbollah in its recent war against Israel.

In an interview with CanWest News Service, Mr. MacKay highlighted Iran's support of Hezbollah and its nuclear ambitions, which will be back in the international spotlight on Tuesday -- the symbolic date in the Muslim calendar chosen by the Islamic regime to reply to UN demands to end its suspected nuclear weapons program.

"They [Iran] are certainly behind much of the difficulty that's going on in the region by funding Hezbollah, by supporting them in terms of their activities against Israel. They have a great deal of responsibility and blood on their hands from their activities," he said. READ MORE

Mr. MacKay said he saw a "glimmer of hope" this week Tehran might consider halting its uranium enrichment program, although he's not holding his breath.

Iran says it needs nuclear energy to provide electricity, but the West suspects it of trying to create a nuclear bomb.

The United States says it wants the United Nations to move swiftly to impose sanctions if Iran fails to halt uranium enrichment by Aug. 31, the deadline set by the UN Security Council for Tehran to respond to an incentive package offered by the West.

"I think this is one of the more ominous and looming concerns that everyone should be focused on," Mr. MacKay said.

"Of course, we've been very much caught up with what's been happening in the Middle East, but Iran, it's fair to say, has been described an agent provocateur."

Mr. MacKay also pointed to Syria as "a conduit for Iran to perpetrate much of this mischief."

Israel and the United States are concerned Iran and Syria may try to resupply Hezbollah with weapons after the ceasefire in its 34-day war with Israel. Syria is thought to have acted as one of the main supply routes for weapons used by Hezbollah during the war.

Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, suggested his country might be ready to agree on suspension of uranium enrichment.

"We are ready to negotiate over all issues stated in the proposed package," he said this week.

"One of the points in the package is the issue of suspension. We are ready to negotiate over all issues, including suspension."

Mr. Mottaki's conciliatory tone contrasts with the continued refusal of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop enrichment and his fiery support of Hezbollah.

"I have reservations about Iran's intentions for obvious reasons. At this point I think the Foreign Minister's statement is -- I would describe it as a glimmer of hope -- and let's hope that they follow through on their word," Mr. MacKay said.