Moscow Quits Sanction Talks about Iran

A00503724.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Russia pulled out of talks on tighter sanctions against Iran despite repeated calls by the US for fresh UN Security Council resolutions against the Islamic Republic.

The apparent failure of the diplomatic initiative leaves the West without a strategy to contain Iran’s nuclear progress.

Moscow pulled out of multilateral talks planned for Wednesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly amid tensions with the United States over Russia’s military action in Georgia.

Washington said that the meeting between the five permanent Security Council members and Germany had been cancelled. France, however, urged the remaining parties to go ahead with the discussions.

The German Foreign Minister said yesterday that the frosty state of US-Russian relations could imperil action on Iran for months to come and could further aggravate a range of pressing global problems that needed a multilateral approach.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters at the General Assembly that US-Russian cooperation was essential to bring pressure to bear on Tehran.

“I am very worried,” he said. “None of the international crises, from the Middle East to the Caucasus, Iran – we see it also in the six-party talks on North Korea – can be resolved if we do not have the two big players, Russia and the US, on board.”

He said that the decision by Washington to withdraw from a planned meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations had prompted Russia to withdraw from talks today. “We’re going in the wrong direction, I am completely convinced of that,” he said.

Diplomats from the six countries of the so-called 5+1 will meet instead of their foreign ministers

“I see our common chance in being able to demonstrate the international community’s decisiveness and unity to Iran,” Steinmeier said. “That is difficult when we six are not speaking to each other. I see no more chance of that happening this week.”

Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, was preparing yesterday for what promised to be a tense encounter with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, with whom she has clashed repeatedly even before the Georgian crisis.

“We are obviously in a rocky period in our relations with Russia,” a senior American official said.

David Miliband will meet Lavrov today – their first encounter since their now infamous telephone conversation during which the Russian swore at the Foreign Secretary in a decidedly undiplomatic exchange.

The United States 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.

Iran is under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment, saying the demand is politically tainted and illogical.

Iran has so far ruled out halting or limiting its nuclear work in exchange for trade and other incentives, saying that renouncing its rights under the NPT would encourage world powers to put further pressure on the country and would not lead to a change in the West’s hardline stance on Tehran.

Iran has also insisted that it would 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.

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.

Observers believe that the US is 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.

The US attempt to push for stronger Security Council sanctions was further undermined by the country’s own national intelligence estimate, published in late 2007, which said Iran is not pursuing a weapons program.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties also contradicts reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohammed ElBaradei – 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.

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.

Also in his latest report to the IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors, ElBaradei once again verified Iran’s non-diversion of declared nuclear material, adding that the UN agency has failed to discover any “components of a nuclear weapon” or “related nuclear physics studies” in Iran.

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.”

Following the said reports, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seems to be completely irrational.

Observers believe that 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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