West seeks Russian backing over Iran programme

VIENNA (AFP) — The United States and the European Union will hold off taking Iran before the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme until they get Russia to back them and may even allow Tehran to do some nuclear fuel work, diplomats told AFP.
“If the Russians don’t come around, there could not be referral in November,” a European diplomat said, referring to a November 24 meeting of the Vienna-based UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which could send Iran to the Security Council.

“The next month is all about Russia handling,” a Western diplomat said about efforts to win Moscow’s support. The United States and EU negotiators Britain, France and Germany fear Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons and want it brought before the Security Council, which has the power to impose penalties such as trade sanctions.

But Russia, which has a lucrative contract to build Iran’s first nuclear power reactor, has a veto on the Security Council.

The IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors in September found Iran in non-compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, paving the way for the matter to be referred to the Security Council if Iran does not halt nuclear fuel work and cooperate fully with an IAEA investigation.

Diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Russia reiterated its support Monday for Iran’s nuclear programme, which Tehran says is a peaceful effort to generate electricity, and said all questions about it should be handled by the IAEA.

“This way we can find a decision acceptable by all sides that, on the one hand, allows Iran its lawful right to a peaceful nuclear energy programme and, on the other hand, does not allow any doubts about the peaceful character of this activity,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks in Moscow with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki.

Earlier this month, Lavrov and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice openly aired their differences over the issue. The Russian minister defended Tehran’s “right” to nuclear energy, while Rice retorted that Iran also had “obligations” under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Diplomats said a compromise may be for Iran to be allowed to do preliminary nuclear fuel work, something the EU has so far refused.

Under such a deal, Iran would be allowed to convert uranium ore into the gas that is the feedstock for making enriched uranium but not to take the next step and enrich uranium. Enriched uranium is fuel for civilian nuclear power reactors but can also be the raw material for atom bombs.

Iran-EU talks broke down in August when Tehran slammed the door on an offer of incentives in exchange for a cessation of fuel work, namely uranium conversion it had resumed that month.

“A compromise would involve Iran keeping some conversion capability eventually,” the Western diplomat said. But the diplomat said Iran would still have to halt this work in order for talks with the EU-3 to resume and would not be allowed to do actual enrichment.

Iran has refused to halt conversion work. The diplomat said Tehran had also rejected a compromise proposal for South Africa to hold for safekeeping uranium gas converted by Iran.

“The idea is to sweeten the EU-3 offer as Russia is trying to do everything to keep some conversion for Iran,” the diplomat said. The diplomat said the West wanted diplomacy with Iran to effectively “be an EU3-Russia-US effort from now on.”

US computer game touches Tehran’s atomic nerve
By Christian Oliver

TEHRAN — US special forces dart through Iran’s underground nuclear facilities, gunning down any hapless Iranians standing between them and centrifuges that must be blown to bits.

Much to Tehran’s relief, this crack team exists only in a new US computer game. But even these animated saboteurs are too close for comfort, downloadable into Iranian living rooms at the click of a mouse.

The cyberspace troopers have sparked bitter press comment in Iran and a petition asking that the game be shelved.

“Americans have a deep craving for an attack against Iran, but they are going to have to settle for this make-believe assault,” wrote the Kayhan daily, whose editor is appointed directly by Iran’s supreme leader.

“US attacks Iran” is made by US firm Kuma Reality Games whose war games often tie into top news stories. Iran is at the centre of a diplomatic maelstrom, flatly denying US accusations it is seeking atomic warheads. It argues it needs underground nuclear facilities, such as one near the central town of Natanz, to make fuel for power stations.

The United States consistently declines to rule out a military strike against Iran, but has said such an option is “not on the agenda.”

The game’s trailer plays pounding music and starkly asks: “Diplomacy has failed … Is nothing to be done?”. US troops then strafe a car, leap out of helicopters and prowl around menacingly before blowing things up.

Www.persianpetition.com a forum for Persian speakers in Iran and abroad, posted a notice asking Kuma to withdraw the game on October 12. Since then it has got more than 5,000 signatures.

“We must make the Americans understand that Iran is different from Iraq and Afghanistan, where they just did what they wanted,” the petition read.

Kuma boss Keith Halper said he has no plans to take the game offline and that he had not realised the games were played in the Middle East as well.

“The controversy does surprise me. I just didn’t expect that there were people from Iran who were going to become aware of it,” he told Reuters. Other Kuma games have been criticised in the United States for their realistic portrayal of current events, including recent battles.

The Iran game has been downloaded in Iran thousands of times, Halper said, and the company has received roughly 300 e-mail messages from Iran. Some criticised the game but others had asked how to get a copy without a broadband connection.

Iran has been prickly about the idea of US special forces lurking around inside the Islamic republic since US journalist Seymour Hersh said in the New Yorker this year that US “Black Ops” had ventured across Iran’s borders.

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