Saturday, September 02, 2006

Iran offers cooperation on Israel-Hizbullah truce

YNet News:
Iran’s Foreign Minister offered UN Secretary General Kofi Annan his country’s full cooperation over a Security Council resolution on the truce between Israel and Hizbullah, a UN Spokesman said on Saturday.

Iran is widely believed to be the main arms supplier for Hizbullah in Lebanon. Although Iran funded and armed Hizbullah in the 1980s, it now says its support is primarily moral and political.

“He (Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki) concluded by saying that we can count on his full cooperation” over resolution 1701, UN Spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said after talks between Annan and Mottaki in Tehran. READ MORE

Annan met the Iranian minister to seek help in shoring up the Hizbullah-Israel ceasefire and also discussed Tehran’s nuclear standoff with the West.

Fawzi said Annan had also held a telephone conversation with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prior to the Iran visit.

(Ahmadinejad) had told him that while he had some reservations over some articles in the resolution, he would nevertheless cooperate in its implementation,” Fawzi said, without giving details about Iran’s reservations.

The UN Resolution called for a truce and a UN Peacekeeping force to help the Lebanese army supervise the pull-out of Israeli troops after 34 days of fighting between Israel and Hizbullah guerrillas.

Fawzi said the discussed paragraph 15 of the resolution, referring to a ban on illegal arms shipments to Lebanon, but gave no details.

Annan arrived in the Iranian capital two days after the UN Nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reported that Tehran had failed to meet the UN Security Council’s Aug. 31 deadline to halt uranium enrichment.

Annan, Ahmadinejad to meet

Some analysts say Iran may have been emboldened in its nuclear standoff by the Lebanon conflict, which Tehran declared a victory for its ally Hizbullah.

Iran insists its atomic plans are directed at generating electricity but the West says it wants to build nuclear bombs.

After Mottaki, Annan held talks with Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator. The UN Chief is also due to meet President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday.

“I have just had very good and constructive discussions with Mr Larijani. As you can imagine we discussed the nuclear issue and many other issues of concern to Iran and to the United Nations,” Annan said after his meeting.

“I found the discussion helpful and will come in handy as I move ahead with my work,” he said in comments relayed to Reuters by Fawzi.

Annan may also seek Iran’s help in securing the release of two Israeli soldiers seized by Hizbullah in a July 12 cross-border raid that sparked the war that killed more than 1,300 people, mostly Lebanese civilians.

Annan has already visited Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Qatar on this trip. In Damascus, Annan said Syria promised to enforce the arms embargo on Hizbullah.

Last November, Annan cancelled a trip to Tehran in response to a call by Ahmadinejad that Israel “Be wiped off the map”.

European Union foreign ministers agreed on Saturday to give diplomacy two more weeks to clarify Iran’s nuclear stance.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will meet Larijani in Europe early next week to try to clear up ambiguities in Tehran’s 21-page reply to a major power offer of cooperation if it stops work that could be used to develop a nuclear weapon.

About 800 Italian troops had arrived off Lebanon on Saturday from 3,000 pledged by Italy, an Italian navy spokesman said. More than 250 marines had landed by midday, gathering at a beach hotel guarded by Lebanese troops and UN Peacekeepers.

The UN plans to increase the existing 2,000 peacekeepers in Lebanon to 15,000 to help enforce the ceasefire. Italy’s contingent will be the biggest in the force, known as UNIFIL II.