Thursday, March 23, 2006

Diplomats Report Little Progress on Iran

Yahoo News:

By NICK WADHAMS, Associated Press Writer

Wed Mar 22, 7:45 PM ET

The five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council reported little progress Wednesday after new talks meant to craft a unified message urging Iran to come clean about its suspect nuclear program.

The gap between Britain, France and the United States on the one side, and China and Russia on the other, on the stance to take toward Iran has shown little sign of closing in the nearly two weeks that council members have debated the issue.

Nonetheless, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and several diplomats in New York expressed their belief that the council would come to a deal eventually.

"We will come up with a vehicle, I am quite certain of that," Rice said during a trip to the Bahamas. "We have work still to do. This is the natural course of diplomacy. If it takes a little longer, I'm not really concerned about that."

The United States and its allies in Europe had hoped that a strong council statement would help pressure Iran to comply with demands by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to stop enriching uranium. The IAEA's 35-nation board had asked for Security Council involvement earlier this year after Iran moved to develop full-blown enrichment capabilities.

Yet the West has so far been unable to persuade China and Russia to sign onto a statement reiterating demands by the IAEA that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, the process that can be used to generate nuclear power or make nuclear weapons.

Diplomats said the Russians and Chinese have not budged from their demand that the IAEA retain the main role in cajoling Iran on uranium enrichment. They have raised concerns that pushing Iran too hard could lead to its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and expulsion of IAEA inspectors.

After their talks Wednesday, the five veto-wielding members of the council said more talks were needed. They still had no plans to call a meeting of the full, 15-nation council to consider a new text for a council statement.

"We will meet from time to time but we didn't discuss any proposals to arrange the meeting of the whole membership," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Andrey Denisov said. "We still need some more time to consult."

In a talk in Wheeling, W.Va., President Bush stressed that Iran should never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.

"We're dealing with this issue diplomatically by having the Germans and the French and the British send a clear message to the Iranians, with our strong backing, that you will not have the capacity to make a weapon, to know how to make a weapon," Bush said.


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