5+1 Talks on Iran Called off

A00674956.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)-Foreign ministers from the six major powers have called off talks to discuss further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

The United States and five other powers on Tuesday called off plans for high-level talks here in New York this week to debate further sanctions against Iran, after Russia complained of US attempts to “punish” it.

The cancellation of the meeting in New York involving US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her counterparts from Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany came amid rising US-Russian tensions over the crisis in Georgia.

“There is not going to be a P5-plus-one ministers meeting” on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

The permanent five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany were to meet in New York Thursday to consider possible further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, the French foreign ministry said this week.

However, McCormack said that Rice would hold a one-on-one meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday.

In Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry said earlier that Moscow was against the planned meeting of the six powers, referring to US attempts to “punish” Moscow, apparently over its August 8 incursion into Georgia.

The statement appeared to indicate it was walking away from the meeting.

It was also an official response to US suggestions that the United States and Russia could work together in some areas but not others.

“It would be very desirable for Washington to finally decide what it wants in its relations with Moscow. If it wants to punish Russia, this is one thing. If it agrees we have common interests… that is another,” the ministry said.

“To use the words of Condoleezza Rice, you can’t have it both ways,” it added, referring to a phrase that the US secretary of state has used in criticizing Russia’s conflict with Georgia last month.

McCormack did not acknowledge that Georgia was the stumbling block, but said “we agree with them (the Russians) that the time is not right to have a meeting at the ministerial level.”

The six political directors met in Washington last week.

The State Department issued a statement afterward saying the six were “committed to exploring possible further” UN Security Council sanction resolutions against Iran, which is already under three sets of UN sanctions.

But Russia said Saturday it had rejected US proposals for new UN Security Council measures against Iran. China said September 16 that UN-imposed sanctions would not resolve the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program.

Speaking in New York before the US announcement, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that the possible cancelation of the ministerial meeting would make it “difficult” to bring pressure to bear on Iran.

“I hope and expect that this is not the end of” these efforts to convince Iran to abandon sensitive nuclear fuel work, he said.

“But there is no question that without such a meeting, which we urgently need in the current situation, it will be more complicated to bring the necessary international pressure to bear,” Steinmeier said.

Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran has dismissed West’s demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians’ national resolve to continue the path.

Iran insists that it should continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Iran currently suffers from an electricity shortage that has forced the country into adopting a rationing program by scheduling power outages – of up to two hours a day – across both urban and rural areas.

Iran plans to construct additional nuclear power plants to provide for the electricity needs of its growing population.

The Islamic Republic says that it considers its nuclear case closed as it has come clean of IAEA’s questions and suspicions about its past nuclear activities.

Political observers believe that the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. 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.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicts the report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seems to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

The UN nuclear watchdog has also carried out at least 14 surprise inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites so far, but found nothing to support West’s allegations.

The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog continues snap inspections of Iranian nuclear sites and has reported that all “declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities.”

In his latest report the IAEA chief verified the “non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran”, confirming that Tehran enriches uranium-235 to a level of 3.7 percent, a rate consistent with the construction of a power plant.

Observers believe that the shift of policy by the White House to send William Burns – the third highest-ranking diplomat in the US – to the latest round of Iran-West talks happened after Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran lost steam due to the growing international vigilance.

US President George W. Bush finished a tour of the Middle East in winter to gain the consensus of his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

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

Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran’s case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic’s increased cooperation with the agency.

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