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 Post subject: Europe softens stance on Iran
PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 2:16 am 

Joined: Sat Jan 14, 2006 4:13 pm
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Location: South Australia
Europe softens stance on Iran

January 19, 2006
LONDON: Britain and its European allies have backed away from threatening economic sanctions against Iran if the nation is referred to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program.

As Britain, France and Germany began drafting a resolution before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer Iran to the UN, a senior official at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said Britain favoured a gradual, sustained build-up to force Tehran to comply with its international obligations.

"We do not see this leading straight into sanctions," the official said.

"We see a gradual build-up of moves that will take place over time. We are not going to (the UN Security Council in) New York to introduce punitive sanctions against Iran. That is not our approach.

"The Security Council has weight and authority on the issues.

"A country cannot ignore the calls and requirements of the Security Council without cost. It brings together major players acting in concert. It can issue political calls which will have weight."

British, French and German diplomats had begun drafting the referral resolution before the IAEA. Diplomats said the referral called on Iran to "extend full and prompt co-operation to the agency" and called for "additional transparency measures". But it made no reference to the threat of sanctions.

The softening of the European position seemed to be aimed at wooing Moscow and Beijing, which have strong commercial links with Iran and are deeply opposed to any measures that might harm them.

"The question of sanctions against Iran puts the cart before the horse," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose country has a $US1billion ($1.3billion) contract to build Iran's nuclear reactor.

"Sanctions are in no way the best, or the only, way to solve the problem."

His view was echoed by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman who favoured "patience" and the resumption of talks between Iran and the three major European Union nations.

Those talks ended last week when Iran broke a commitment to suspend nuclear research work and resumed enriching uranium, the process needed to make nuclear fuel or the core of an atomic warhead.

It was not clear how Europe's kid-glove diplomacy would be received in Washington.

The Bush administration says Iran wants to make nuclear arms and is pursuing harsh penalties through the Security Council.

A number of high-profile US senators, including John McCain and Trent Lott, said yesterday that the prospect of higher energy prices should not stop the world from imposing sanctions against oil-rich Iran.

Senator McCain said Iran posed a greater danger to the US than Iraq at this point, and must be contained.

The Times

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