Friday, September 16, 2005

Europeans revive talks with Iran; united action urged against terror

Yahoo News:

Fri Sep 16,12:16 AM ET

Three European foreign ministers revived talks with Iran here in a bid to head off a showdown over its nuclear program as world powers pressed for united action to combat terrorism on the second day of the UN summit.

The ministers of Britain, France and Germany met with their Iranian counterpart and later conferred briefly with the Islamic Republic's new president in a diplomatic push brokered by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The talks came four days before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was to meet in Vienna to discuss seeking possible UN action against Iran for resuming suspected nuclear weapons activities.

"We had a very thorough exchange of the different positions of the EU-3 and the new government of Iran," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said after the 80-minute session with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the ministers had a "very frank discussion" in the first talks between Iran and the so-called EU-3 since a May 25 session in Geneva.

The ministers later sat down with Iran's new president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who planned to unveil what Tehran called new proposals to resolve the standoff in a speech here Saturday.

"We're going to listen carefully to what the president has to say and we'll take it from there," Straw said afterwards.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who also attended the meeting with Ahmadinejad along with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, stressed there were no actual negotiations.

"We have only prepared the ground," Solana said. "If it is possible to continue? .... it's not clear yet. We have to wait until the speech."

Douste-Blazy insisted the EU-3 strategy had always been to avoid involving the Security Council, but added that the next step would depend on how far Ahmadinejad's speech goes in addressing the Europeans' concerns.

"If there's no movement, no change ... it's not at all impossible that there will be a referral to the Council," he said.

Annan organized the meeting between Iran and the EU-3, which has been trying for nearly two years to wean Tehran off its suspected nuclear arms ambitions with economic and security incentives.

On the margins of the summit, Russian President Vladimir also huddled with Ahmadinejad but a Russian official who was present for the first half of the hour-long meeting said the two leaders did not discuss Tehran's nuclear program.

Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Iran, a move which has sparked controversy as the United States and other Western countries accuse Iran of seeking to secretly build nuclear weapons.

Moscow has indicated it will not support hauling Iran before the UN Security Council over its suspected weapons-related nuclear program, as sought by the United States and its European allies.

Making his debut appearance on the international stage Wednesday, Ahmadinejad lashed out at Western "interventionism" but did not touch the thorny nuclear issue when he addressed the General Assembly.

Ahmadinejad has defended his country's nuclear program as purely peaceful. The United States has been lobbying for world support to haul Iran before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions but has signaled it may not have enough backing when the IAEA board convenes Monday.

Meanwhile taking the podium on the second day of the summit, Putin said collective international action was the best weapon to defeat terrorism which he called "the ideological successor of Nazism."

He insisted that the United Nations and its Security Council "must remain the main centers for coordinating international cooperation in the fight against terrorism as the ideological successor of Nazism."

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani also made a desperate plea to confront the terrorist "forces of darkness" seeking to destabilise his country.

He spoke just hours after suicide bombers struck Baghdad for the second day, killing at least 23 people, after a devastating string of car bomb attacks left some 150 dead and several hundred more wounded.

Chinese leader Hu Jintao also urged the summit to establish a new "fair and effective" security order and step up cooperation in combating global terrorism.

The leader of the Asian Communist giant made it clear that the United Nations should be "the core" of collective security efforts. "Such a role can only be strengthened and must not in any way be weakened," he said.

Hu, whose country has begun to flex its economic muscle, also said the world "should work actively to establish and improve a multilateral trading system that is open, fair and non-discriminatory."

In other developments, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters here Thursday that the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December was one of a series of milestones on the way to ridding the planet of extreme poverty.


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