Thursday, September 15, 2005

Rice: issue of a referral something we'll be working for a while

Reuters reports:

Western powers appeared on Thursday to back away from an early move to refer Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council as Tehran sought to widen backing for its stance by offering to share peaceful nuclear technology with other Islamic nations.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said the three major European powers that have been negotiating with Iran on its nuclear ambitions -- Britain, France and Germany -- were still giving priority to talks.

"We want to pursue the dialogue. We want Iran to suspend various activities. We think there is still room for negotiations," he told a news conference at U.N. headquarters. If that failed, there would be no choice but to take the matter to the Security Council, he added.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that the United States and its European allies may lack the votes to haul Iran before the highest United Nations body next week over its resumption of uranium conversion.

"If we get a referral on September 19, that will be good, but I think the issue of a referral is something that we'll be working for a while," she told Fox News Editorial board.

"I'm not so concerned about exactly when it happens because I don't think this matter is so urgent that it has to be on September 19," Rice said in remarks released after a meeting on Wednesday.

Foreign ministers of the three European nations and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana were to meet new Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on the sidelines of a U.N. summit on Thursday, diplomats said.

"We want to give the new Iranian authorities every opportunity," an EU diplomat said. "We have never closed the door to negotiation. It always remained our preferred route."

European officials said they were struggling to build a convincing majority on the board of the International Atomic Energy Authority, the world nuclear watchdog, to report Iran to the Security Council.

"We would not like to be in a situation diplomatically where we have so many countries voting against our motion," the diplomat said.

Another European diplomat said three weeks of intensive lobbying of key members of the 35-nation IAEA board such as Russia, China and India had failed to produce broad support for a referral. Brazil and Pakistan were hostile and "swing voters" such as Tunisia, Algeria and Nigeria were also in doubt.

Update: Daily Telegraph-Campaign to curb Iran's nuclear plans on the verge of collapse:

The West's diplomatic campaign to curb Iran's nuclear programme was in danger of collapsing last night as America and Europe struggled to find allies at the United Nations Security Council.

At the same time Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's hardline new president, appeared to taunt the West when he insisted that Teheran was ready to share its nuclear know-how with other Muslim countries.The rout of reformists in Teheran and the election of Mr Ahmadinejad - as well as America's problems in Iraq and the rise in oil prices - appear to have emboldened Teheran.

Mr Ahmadinejad raised the stakes last night when he said: "The Islamic Republic never seeks weapons of mass destruction and with respect to the needs of Islamic countries, we are ready to transfer nuclear know-how to these countries."