Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Chirac Doesn't Want New Iran Deadline

Angela Charlton, Yaho0 News:
French President Jacques Chirac said Tuesday that he does not want to set a new deadline for Iran to suspend nuclear activities, which could be used to develop atomic weapons, despite Tehran's defiance of U.N. Security Council demands.

Speaking at the United Nations, Chirac also appeared to soften an earlier proposal to drop talk of sanctions against Iran over its uranium enrichment, an issue high on the agenda at this year's U.N. General Assembly. READ MORE

"We are committed to negotiations and therefore to dialogue. So we're not going to start by setting deadlines that are a few hours long," Chirac told reporters. "This is a process that is under way and I hope it will run its course."

This summer, world powers signed on to the principle that Iran would face at least mild initial sanctions if it blew an Aug. 31 deadline to suspend uranium enrichment. With the deadline elapsed and Iran offering no concessions, the nations have been holding talks on what the consequences should be.

Iran insists its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes only.

While the United States has consistently pushed to punish Iran for defying Security Council demands, Chirac spoke out Monday against sanctions.

The French president has sought out the spotlight on this trip to New York as part of a larger bid to carve out a lasting legacy on world affairs. It is likely his last such performance — while Chirac has been secretive about his career plans, most assume he will step down next year after 12 years in power.

On Monday, Chirac shook up diplomatic circles with a compromise proposal to kickstart talks between Iran and the international community by suspending the threat of U.N. sanctions if Tehran suspends uranium enrichment at the same time. Such a proposal is unlikely to win the support of Washington.

On Tuesday, President Bush, after sideline talks with Chirac at the United Nations, pressed Iran again to immediately begin negotiations, warning that any delay on the part of Tehran would bring consequences — including sanctions.

Chirac insisted that his compromise proposal was just a reiteration of France's position. He said he and Bush see "eye-to-eye" on Iran and insisted U.S.-French relations were close and friendly.

But then, in his speech to the General Assembly, he avoided mention of sanctions, saying only: "Our goal is not to call regimes into question."

"Dialogue must prevail," Chirac said. "The international community must stand firm and united."