Major Powers Will Return Iran Issue to U.N. Council

By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, July 13, 2006

PARIS, July 12 -- Diplomats from the United States, Russia, China and Europe announced Wednesday that they would return to the U.N. Security Council for possible punitive action against Iran, expressing "profound disappointment" over the Tehran government's refusal to stop its uranium enrichment program or respond to incentives offered by global powers.

"The Iranians have given no indication at all that they are ready to engage seriously on the substance of our proposals," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in a statement read at the end of a meeting with his counterparts from the United States, European Union, China, Russia and Germany. "We have no choice but to return to the United Nations Security Council and take forward the process that was suspended two months ago."

The United States and the five other major powers have offered Iran assistance in building civilian nuclear reactors as well as economic and trade incentives in return for Iran giving up its uranium enrichment program. Iranian officials have given conflicting signals about whether they would accept a plan and have repeatedly said they needed more time to consider the proposals since they were presented to Tehran on June 6.

The unanimous decision to go back to the Security Council followed a report from E.U. foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who told the foreign ministers that his meeting Tuesday with Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, "gave him nothing to work with," according to a Western diplomat who attended the meeting. He said Solana complained that he had made no progress in persuading the Iranians to begin negotiations, despite three meetings in the last five weeks.

Russia and China, which have been reluctant to join the U.S. and European nations in pressuring Iran with threats and tough talk, agreed to the statement issued Wednesday because of growing concerns over Iran's refusal to engage in discussions, the diplomat said.

The United States and other Western nations say Iran is advancing its uranium enrichment program in an effort to produce a nuclear weapon; Iranian authorities say the program is intended only for civilian energy production.

John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Wednesday that informal discussions about a resolution ordering Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program were already beginning and that he hoped the Security Council would take action next week.

But U.S. and European officials monitoring the Paris meeting said tensions among the world leaders could likely resurface during Security Council debates over how much more time to give Iran to respond, as well as over the potential next stage of the debate -- the severity of any measures that could be used to punish Iran if it continues enriching uranium.

If Iran does not stop its program, U.S. and European countries have threatened to push for economic and trade restrictions, in addition to limiting travel by Iranian officials. The measures now under consideration do not include military action.

The Wednesday statement by the foreign ministers, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, also said that should Iran halt its uranium enrichment efforts and "enter into negotiations, we would be ready to hold back from further action in the U.N. Security Council."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated Wednesday that Iran would not negotiate its right to a nuclear program. "We are for negotiations, we are for dialogue," he said at a public rally. "But of course we will not negotiate our undeniable rights with anyone."

Staff writer Colum Lynch at the United Nations contributed to this report.


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