Iran Slams US Sanctions

A01129026.jpgTEHRAN (FNA) Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili criticized a US drive to impose sanctions over its atomic program, and reiterated support from Beijing ahead of crunch high-level talks next week.

Addressing reporters after talks with Chinese officials, Jalili said Iran and China were both against sanctions.

“Concerning the Iranian nuclear issue, we have a lot of areas where we are in agreement. We have a common view on sanctions, proliferation and the right for every nation to peacefully use nuclear energy,” he said.

“These are the three basic common positions that we agree on and we have had a good exchange of views on how to realize these goals.”

He refused to say what position China would take in talks on a proposed new UN resolution on Iran when the five permanent members of the Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – and Germany meet in Berlin next week.

China routinely calls for further talks rather than aggressive UN action, and following talks with Jalili, China’s foreign policy chief Tang Jiaxuan, a member of the State Council, or cabinet, suggested there was no change in that position.

“The international community should beef up diplomatic efforts to facilitate the resumption of negotiations and achieve a comprehensive settlement of the issue,” he said, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

Jalili stressed that the United States is using the sanctions threat as a domestic election ploy, in remarks through a Chinese translation.

“These proposals, plans and dramas are all for the US domestic elections and some nations are viewing these mistaken US unilateral actions with a cold eye,” he said.

Jalili arrived Thursday in Beijing in an apparent effort to bolster mutual cooperation and discuss Iran’s nuclear issue.

The US-led European Union troika of Britain, France and Germany have been leading efforts to persuade Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, a right envisaged for all signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Tehran denies Western charges that it is seeking nuclear arms, insisting its program is peaceful and aimed at providing civilian energy.

“The Iranian nuclear issue is now at a crucial moment,” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told Jalili in a meeting earlier Thursday, according to remarks posted by the foreign ministry.

“China hopes all concerned parties, including Iran, make joint efforts to resume negotiations as soon as possible in a bid to promote the comprehensive and proper settlement of this issue.”

Yang met Jalili one day after separate talks with visiting US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who is seeking Chinese support for a new resolution that would contain binding sanctions.

Negroponte said he would continue that push during twice-yearly high-level bilateral talks being held Friday in southwestern China’s Guizhou city.

Last week, after the head of the UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited Tehran, Iran agreed to clear up all outstanding issues about its program within four weeks.

Negroponte told reporters Thursday that UN-backed sanctions were necessary as Iran had refused to suspend uranium enrichment.

US is at loggerheads with Iran over Tehran’s independent and home-grown nuclear technology. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Iran is under two sets of UN Security Council sanctions for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment even after the peaceful nature of its nuclear programs and activities was proved.

Washington is pushing for additional UN penalties despite a recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and a similar report by the IAEA head in November which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities, Russia and China increased resistance to any further punitive measures by the Security Council.

Tehran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium only to produce fuel for reactors that would generate electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.

Iran has also pledged to clear up all remaining questions over the program by late February.

Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.

US President George W. Bush, who finished a tour of the Middle East on Wednesday, has called on Arab states to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the IAEA and US intelligence reports.

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