Monday, September 18, 2006

French President: Iran Shouldn't Be Referred To UN

Dow Jones Newswires:
French President Jacques Chirac suggested Monday the international community renounce referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council during nuclear talks - and that Iran, in return, suspend uranium enrichment.

"I don't believe in a solution without dialogue," Chirac said on Europe-1 radio, suggesting the international community suspend the threat of U.N. sanctions in exchange for Iran's suspension of enrichment during negotiations. READ MORE

"I am not pessimistic," Chirac said. "I think that Iran is a great nation, an old culture, an old civilization, and that we can find solutions through dialogue."

He suggested that, firstly, an agenda for talks be set by both sides, Iran and the six nations currently involved in the issue - France, Germany, the U.K., Russia, China and the U.S.

"We must, on the one hand, together, Iran and the six countries, meet and set an agenda, then start negotiations. Then, during these negotiations, I suggest that the six renounce referring (Iran to) the U.N. Security Council and that Iran renounce uranium enrichment during negotiations," Chirac said.

He spoke before heading to New York for the U.N. General Assembly. It wasn't immediately clear whether he would meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his stay.

There is concern over Iran's refusal to give up uranium enrichment due to suspicions Tehran is pursuing a secret weapons program. Iran maintains its nuclear program is for civilian use and vows not to give it up.

The U.N. Security Council has passed a resolution providing for possible economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt enrichment.

The confrontation has stymied negotiations with Iran. However, Tehran has recently given signs it could be more flexible.

Senior Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said during two-day talks that ended a week ago with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana that Tehran is ready to consider temporarily complying with the Security Council demand that it freeze uranium enrichment, diplomats in Vienna familiar with the substance of the talks said at the time.

One diplomat said Larijani floated the possibility of Iran stopping its enrichment activities "voluntarily, for one or two months, if such a way that it does it without pressure."

Among the six nations directly involved in the Iran issue, the U.S. and the U.K. have backed moving quickly to sanctions if Iran doesn't comply with demands it cease its enrichment program.

Russia and China have appeared most hesitant to call for sanctions, while French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said earlier this month that a " gradual approach" was needed.

Chirac also said the U.N. peacekeeping resolution for Lebanon must be carried out "without reservations."

Chirac expressed confidence Israel would withdraw its troops from southern Lebanon. He said the first aim of U.N. Resolution 1701 - which ended 34 days of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah - was to bolster the authority of the Lebanese government.

"I want it to be carried out without reservations. It is in the interests of Lebanon and peace in the region," the French leader said.

"No country can live if a part of its territory escapes the authority of its government," he said.

Chirac defended his initial reluctance to commit large numbers of French troops to the U.N. peacekeeping force. He said he first had wanted to ensure the peacekeepers would be given the right to defend themselves and to "act effectively."

"When I got the assurances that these rules would be applied, that our soldiers would be able to carry out their mission normally, that is when I decided to send them," he said.

"It would have irresponsible to commit to action without being aware of the consequences," he added.