Friday, September 08, 2006

Six Powers Discuss 'Next Steps in Security Council' for Iran

Deutsche Welle:
The six world powers meeting in Berlin discussed "the next steps in the Security Council," a senior European diplomat said in a clear allusion to possible sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Senior officials from Germany, France, Britain, the United States, Russia and China met in Berlin to work out a strategy on Iran, but while they agreed Tehran had not halted enrichment, there was little sign the powers agreed on what to do about it.

"We had a first discussion of the next steps in the Security Council, following the lines of Resolution 1696," which calls for possible sanctions if Iran defies a call to suspend uranium enrichment, said a high-ranking European Union diplomat, who attended the meeting Thursday.

He said it was "actually quite a productive meeting, there was common analysis on where we were."

But while the talks were generally described as productive, Russia and China were said to still be reluctant to punish Iran for refusing to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work and rejoin international talks. READ MORE

The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the UN nuclear watchdog report that Iran had failed to meet an August 31 UN Security Council deadline to freeze strategic nuclear fuel work "makes clear Iran has not met the requirements of the Security Council and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)".

"Committed" to June agreement

The diplomat said the six nations "remain committed" to an agreement in June that they would offer Iran talks on receiving trade, security and technology benefits if Tehran would suspend uranium enrichment, which makes nuclear reactor fuel but also atom bomb material.

"The door remains open to Iran," he said.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ignored UN deadlinesBildunterschrift: Gro├čansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ignored UN deadlines

But the six nations had also said in June that if Iran did not halt enrichment the Security Council could move to impose sanctions. This dual carrot-stick approach was enshrined in Security Council resolution 1696 adopted on July 31.

The diplomat said that all six nations -- including Iranian allies and major trading partners China and Russia -- had a "commitment to the implementation of the resolution." The diplomat said the resolution states clearly that "if Iran hadn't complied, measures under Article 41 need to be adopted."

Article 41 allows for economic and other sanctions but not military action.

At a stand-still?

Tehran rejects accusations by the West that it is trying to develop atomic weapons. The world's fourth biggest oil exporters insists it wants nuclear fuel only to generate electricity.

Consultations among the six countries will continue next week after Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani meets EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Saturday to discuss Iran's response to the offer of incentives.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters about the meeting in Berlin: "They began discussion of the measures we can take in the Security Council in response to Iran's failure to comply."

"All agreed at this time we are not going to discuss the details of those deliberations. Political directors agreed they would discuss these issues by phone on Monday."

Opposition to sanctions remains

Despite the presentation of a unified front following the Berlin meeting, the US still faces opposition to its bid to persuade the other powers to impose sanctions on Iran.

Although China and Russia backed the idea of sanctions by voting for resolution 1696, they both remain reluctant to penalize the Islamic Republic and question Western accusations that Iran poses a nuclear threat.

Before Thursday's meeting China's Foreign Ministry stressed the diplomatic options, calling for the standoff with Iran to "be resolved through negotiation in a peaceful way."

France also indicated it was not yet time for sanctions by suggesting world powers may be flexible over a previous demand that Iran suspend its enrichment work before starting talks.

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the timing of any suspension was crucial and that it could be discussed. "It's a major question ... which will perhaps emerge as important in the weeks ahead," he told reporters.

In the EU there is a good bit of resistence to sanctions. "EU states don't really want sanctions but now they realize they're trapped by the Security Council resolution. There isn't likely to be a consensus within Germany's government or in France's," said another European diplomat who also attended the meeting.