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Foreign Media Reaction

August 3, 2005

IRAN:  ITS ULTIMATUM IS 'DISRUPTIVE' AND 'UNDERMINES' EU-3 EFFORTS

KEY FINDINGS

**  Iran's "enrichment of uranium" fuels a "dangerous mixture," poisoning EU-3 negotiations.

**  Eschewing "Khatami's smiles," Iran's new president and the Mullahs "bravely try their luck."

**  Iran "seeks recognition of its 'nuclear sovereignty'" to amass "power in the region."

MAJOR THEMES

EU-3 negotiatiors should 'prepare themselves for rough times'--  Analysts saw a "serious setback" to the EU-3's "diplomatic carrot" of using an economic "incentives package" after Iran said it would reopen Isfahan's "uranium conversion factory."  Papers reflected on this "provocation" and "breach of the agreement" that could turn a "spat into a full blown crisis."  Italian writers noted Iranian defiance and judged the EU-3 "to be on the brink of failure" in the wake of a "strong exchange of words" between Brussels and the capitol of the Islamic Republic.  German outlets saw "growing suspicion" between Iran and the EU-3; right-of-center Die Welt opined, "Tehran wants to bring Europeans out of their shell and improve its reward for renouncing the program."  Prague's business-oriented Hospodarske noviny foresaw "worse consequences" if Iran "rejects the agreement and remains unpunished."

'Changed tones' ahead of Ahmadinejad's takeover--  Germany's center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine saw "Tehran's move" as "brash background music" for Ahmadinejad's inauguration.  Other analysts chimed in to say the "obscurantist mullah regime" is pursuing a "pragmatic pollicy" based on Iran's domestic "political calendar."  Italy's left-leaning La Repubblica warned that with Ahmadinejad, the "politics of smiles is over, Khomeini style is back."  Russia's official Rossiyskaya Gazeta added that as Iran "openly challenges the EU," the Ayatollah regime "behind it hopes that the threat of new sanctions by the EU and U.S. will make the nation rally around its young President."  France's right-of-center Le Figaro cautioned, "in this window of occidental vulnerability" Iran is depending on a Chinese and Russian UNSC veto, but Austria's centrist Die Presse countered that "either the Mullahs underestimate the West's determination and are provoking a new war or they will really get their hands on the bomb." 

'Nuclear blackmail pays--just ask North Korea'--  Along with the UK's left-of-center Independent, many observers referred to non NPT signatories India and Pakistan as well as North Korea, and questioned:  "Why should [Iran] refrain from following the nuclear route?"  France's economic Les Echos echoed, "[these] examples...with which Washington continues a dialogue...do not encourage Tehran to let down its guard"; Luxembourg's socialist Tageblatt declared Tehran has reason to be wary of the "hypocrisy of the West."  Pakistan's liberal Daily Times cited the "Iranian accusation" of a U.S. "double standard" as something that undermines the NPT; such "hypocrisy" has the U.S. "agreeing to aid India’s civil nuclear program, while insisting that Tehran abandon its nuclear ambitions or face international sanctions."  Israeli observers remarked that Iran's issuing the ultimatum "from the out-going" Khatami allows the Iranians to "continue their policy of ambiguity."  A Belgian writer concluded prior negotiations were a "dialogue of the deaf" and agreed with France's regional Sud-Ouest outlet that Iran wants "the Bomb" in order to stand as "master in a strategic but very explosive region."

EDITOR:  Rupert D. Vaughan

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 37 reports from 14 countries from July 29 through August 3, 2005  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.

EUROPE

BRITAIN:  "Disarmament Through Diplomacy"

An editorial in the left-of-center Independent noted (8/1):  "The task of the international community is to convince Iran that its interests are not served by becoming a nuclear power.  Yet so much that the West is doing undermines that objective.  By labelling Iran a member of an international 'axis of evil', U.S. President George Bush stoked the fires of insecurity.  Iran must also look to the near collapse of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and wonder exactly why it should refrain from following the nuclear route?  It will not have escaped Tehran's notice that the big powers have made virtually no efforts to diminish their own nuclear stockpiles in recent years."

FRANCE:  "Iran, The Nuclear Return"

Alexandre Adler remarked in the right-of-center Le Figaro (8/3):   “At first glance, the decision taken by Iran to restart uranium experiments on the site of Isfahan is a declaration of war.  The moderates favorable to large concessions to Iran, notably France and Germany, are obviously overwhelmed.... A simple interpretation exists: Iran never had the intention of renouncing (its nuclear program)...because the United States has had too much to do in Iraq to be able to permit the opening of a new front in Iran....  In this window of Occidental vulnerability, Iran is assured of the combined veto of Russia and China in the Security Council.”   

"Nuclear: Tehran’s Radicalism Revives Anxiety In The Middle East"

Daniel Bastien commented in the economic journal Les Echos (8/3):  “The examples of North Korea, with which Washington continues a dialogue, and India, which has not signed the Non Proliferation Treaty, although it has signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States, do not encourage Tehran to let down its guard.  In addition, the Security Council sanctions seem to have been theoretical: Iran is already under an American embargo, and it is an important supplier of oil...for China.” 

"Iran’s Choice"

Pierre Rousselin opined in right-of-center Le Figaro (8/1):  “In February, President Bush was offering his support to the Europeans and was lifting the following month his opposition to Iran’s adhesion to the WTO.  At that time, everybody thought that pragmatic Rafsanjani would take over. Ahmadinejad’s election has comforted the neo-conservatives in Washington, led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, for whom the negotiations with the Mullahs’ regime are a waste of time.  Iran stands at the time for decision.  Europe still offers it the possibility of openness to the world, politically and economically, in exchange for an unequivocal renouncement of the atomic bomb.  If Iran refuses, it will have to follow Iraq’s precedent: Security Council negotiations under the threat of sanctions and military intervention.” 

"Setback For EU Diplomacy"

Frank De Bondt remarked in regional Sud-Ouest (8/1):  “If, as it said, the Islamic Republic of Iran were to reopen its uranium conversion factory this morning, this would be a serious setback for European diplomacy....  Nobody doubts that the goal of the Islamic Republic is to be able, one day, to make an atomic weapon in order to stand as the master in a strategic but very explosive region.  Today, Tehran’s decision proves George W. Bush right.  If it were carried out, the Iranian file would go in front of the UN Security Council and the United States, who will never tolerate this country becoming a nuclear power, would reserve the right to intervene militarily to prevent the unacceptable.”

GERMANY:  "Dangerous Mixture"

Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich editorialized (8/3):  "There is a red line Tehran must not cross.  If the Mullahs really start producing uranium gas this week, they would go too far, because the atom inspectors will only be able to watch the processing in the plant next week.  If Tehran started with the gas production, it would finally poison the negotiations with the Europeans.  Iran would then avoid international controls, which would be a clear violation of the UN treaty.  The international community could accept Iran's production of hot air, but the illegal production of uranium gas would be unacceptable."

"If You Are Not Willing…"

Clemens Wergin asserted in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (8/3):  "The conflict is coming to a showdown.   The positions of both sides are incompatible.  The Europeans must urge Tehran to suspend uranium processing because that is the only guarantee that Iran will not produce nuclear weapons, and the Iranians want to continue to test and improve the uranium enrichment in their attempt to build a bomb.  Many details of the nuclear program indicate this intention.  The Mullahs believed they could open up a loophole by reaching a deal with the Europeans.  On the other side, Europeans hoped to entice Tehran with extensive economic and security incentives so that the country gives up the bomb.  Both hopes were dashed.  A compromise is not conceivable, because one side wants to build the bomb and the other side wants to prevent it."   

"Iran Is Not Iraq"

Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg observed (8/3):  "Since his opposition to the Iraq war helped him win the elections, Chancellor Schröder loves foreign policy issues in election campaigns.  For weeks he has been trying to find a suitable topic, but his efforts have failed so far.  The escalating conflict between Iran and the three European countries could change this abruptly.  In the dispute over the enrichment of uranium, the European strategy is obviously to demonstrate toughness and threaten to impose economic sanctions.  Berlin's warning is particularly clear.  Such tough tones are rather unusual in such an early stage of international disagreements, but the chancellor can assume that he will benefit from an escalation of the crisis.   Although the government and the opposition pursue a similar Iranian policy, emphasize the importance of negotiations, and distance themselves from the position of the U.S., Schröder could more easily play the role of an experienced and responsible state leader in times of international conflicts.  It is true that foreign policy crises always help the government....  However, it is unlikely that the Iranian crisis will mobilize voters like in the Iraq conflict in 2002.  Military interventions are not on the agenda at the moment at all."

"Tehran's Move"

Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (8/2):  "The West had time to prepare itself for rising tensions after the Iranian presidential elections.  Iran's recent ultimatum and the announcement of resuming its nuclear program did therefore not come as a surprise and cannot derail the European negotiation routine.  Both statements fit into the recent Iranian strategy and are brash background music for the inauguration of the new president.  Foreign Minister Fischer now spoke of an escalation and warned Iran not to misjudge the situation.  It is not clear whether his vague reference to the UN Security Council and the U.S. can impress an Iranian administration that is confident and resistant to reform, but the EU-3 should finally realize that Iran pursues an uncompromising policy and that it will not simply trade off its nuclear ambitions.  That does not mean that the European offer is useless, but the Europeans must make their mind up how they now want to deal with an Iran that turns nuclear.  They would be very predictable if they only had carrots."

"Gambling For Division"

Stefan Kornelius observed in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (8/2):  "If the EU would explain the provocation by referring to the domestic Iranian power struggle and hope for an end of the fights in Tehran, it would lose its credibility, and Iran must know the consequences of its policy.  It is already clear what will happen if the country takes up uranium enrichment again.  The IAEA will deal with the breach, set a deadline and then refer the case to the UN Security Council, which can then impose sanctions.  A further escalation would be conceivable, including a military attack.  We do not have much time to stop this perilous development.  A resumption of the talks is only conceivable if the new president sends a conciliatory note after his inauguration.  Because we cannot really expect this, the European negotiators should prepare themselves for tough times."

"Iran"

Jacques Schuster noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (8/2):  "The back and forth in the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program should not surprise us.  Tehran wants to bring Europeans out of their shell and improve its reward for renouncing the program.  It is not yet clear whether the situation will escalate.  However, the relationship between Iran and Europe does not look good....  It is time for Europeans to make up their mind and decide what they want to do if the 'critical dialogue' fails.  The Europeans still shirk from talking about the consequences for Iran if the country sticks to its nuclear policy.  We have to admit here that taking the matter to the UN Security Council is not a real threat.  Iran knows that Beijing and Moscow would not agree on imposing sanctions on Tehran."

"Risky Game Of Poker"

Richard Meng asserted in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (8/2):  "One thing is clear:  Suspicion is growing between Iran and the EU-3, who have been trying hard to find a solution in the nuclear dispute for a year and a half.  This has less to do with the political schedules in France, Britain and Germany.  It is a domestic game of poker directly before the change of power in Tehran's presidential palace.  That the hardliners could principally renounce the nuclear program, which could eventually lead to an atom bomb, appears to be further away today than months ago.  This makes the situation extremely dangerous.  The European leeway is small, because Washington favored a confrontational policy right from the beginning.  Substantial U.S. elements will be missing in the European offer Iran.  This means that a positive outcome of the dialogue becomes unlikely."

"Tactical Trick"

Business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf editorialized (8/2):  "Tehran's motive for the disruptive action can be found in the change of government.  The old rulers kick against the pricks to enable the new leadership to demonstrate goodwill without losing its face at home.  Iranians can be pragmatists.  They know that the EU is ready to pay much by providing economic assistance and technology in return for a renunciation of nuclear enrichment.  They believe that their tactical trick is a clear offer to the negotiating partners." 

"Diplomatic Threats"

Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg wrote (8/2):  "The two-day delay Iran agreed on yesterday is supposed to demonstrate power.  Given Tehran's change of government, it is a gesture to their people who think much of the nuclear program.  Tehran pursues a strategy of a calculated escalation by unnecessarily provoking the negotiating partner only as far as it does not endanger the talks.  Uranium enrichment remains suspended, but the groundwork is continued....  The show of the recent days is the run-up to the talks that could not be more difficult.... Europe's tools to exert pressure are very limited.  The offer should therefore be better."

ITALY:  "Iran: The Atomic [Bomb] Is Still Far Off"

Gabriel Bertinetto wrote in the pro-democratic Left Party (DS) daily L’Unità (8/3): “A new international crisis is erupting - in Iran, that is at the borders of Iraq, over Tehran’s alleged nuclear rearmament, and greatly resembles the reasons adopted by Bush to topple Saddam.  And with the likely involvement of the UN - the organization that attempted in vain to dissuade the U.S. from attacking Baghdad.  Are we on the threshold of a new conflict?  Probably not, or at least not for the time being.  But certainly the events of the last few days indicate that the European antidote to American military temptations is exhausting its moderating effects. Following two years of slow progress alternated with bitter disappointments, the negotiations that were obstinately conducted by the French-German-British troika appear to be on the brink of failure.”

"Khatami Confirms The Nuclear Choice And Even Gains Putin’s Support"

The elite, center-left Il Riformista stated (8/3): “What is happening in Tehran where tension is very high and where yesterday we witnessed a strong exchange of words between Brussels and the capital of the Islamic Republic?...  Tehran is not turning back: yesterday it reiterated its intentions to reactivate its nuclear program soon....  In its face-off, which is being closely followed by the U.S. (which is waiting for its European ‘friends’ to burn their hands first), Tehran has...gained Russian support....  In the meantime, observers can only take notes and try to understand if there is a connection between the killing of the judge, the bomb [in a building that also houses] British [Airways and British Petroleum] and the face-off on the nuclear issue, or whether the tense atmosphere on the eve of the coronation of the new president has given rise to an internal day of reckoning at a delicate moment.  No matter what, it is still a hot potato and the problems are still unresolved.  Some think it is a collegial decision: Iran’s legitimate claim to nuclear energy in order to meet its growing needs.  In this case, whether it be moderates or hawks, reformists or conservatives, Tehran will stand its ground.”

"Iran Defies Europe, Reopens Enriched Uranium Plant"

New York correspondent Maurizio Molinari writes in centrist, influential La Stampa (8/1):  “High tension between Iran and the European Union.  Tehran informed London, Berlin and Paris of its intention to reopen the Isfahan plant for converting uranium from mineral to gas…and the three capitals responded with a warning to avoid ‘unilateral acts’ destined to jeopardize the negotiations that have been going on for over two years....  In an attempt to avoid the collapse of negotiations, the three European countries--which keep in constant diplomatic contact with Washington--are showing both the carrot and the stick....  Their intent is to convince Tehran to go beyond a suspension of programs to enrich uranium...to opt to completely abandon the process of creating the gas necessary for nuclear weapons.”

"Politics of Smiles is Over, Khomeini Style is Back"

An analysis by Vanna Vannuccini in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (8/1): “The tones have undoubtedly changed.  Not since the days of Imam Khomeini have we seen such tough positions on the part of Iran.  Khatami’s smiles had made us forget them....  In order to find out whether or not substance is going to change, we will have to wait until September, when the new Iranian president...will make his nuclear program publicly known.  The Europeans were hoping to have the negotiations last until then, so they could get an idea of [the nature of] Ahmadinejad, so far inscrutable for everybody.  But he deprived them of this possibility.  Iran feels stronger than ever.  The visit to Tehran by Iraqi Prime Minister Jafari has shown that Iranian theocrats are the real winners of the war in Iraq.  Iraq needs Iran in order to avoid sinking even further into chaos.  Ahmadinejad, however, has his own Achilles' heel: 17 million Iranians voted for him because he promised to fight poverty.  In order to do that, he needs trade and major investments, and all of that can come from Europe and, in the end, from the United States.”

RUSSIA:  "Ukraine, Georgia As Dress Rehearsals"

Mikhail Zygar commented in business-oriented Kommersant (8/3): “The Iranians-a proud nation possessing a great culture and a regional leader with enormous ambitions-are easy to understand.  No wonder Tehran is bent on its nuclear program.  With India, China and even Pakistan having atom bombs, Iran must feel hurt, even humiliated.  It doesn’t need the Bomb to blackmail everybody or try to exchange it for rice.  The Bomb is a matter of self-respect.  If anybody knows that, the Russians do.  Our rockets may be rusty, but they make us feel like a great power.  The Americans are easy to understand, too.  They don’t like the Iranian regime, but they don’t want to fight Iranians.  Instead, they keep clamoring about popular protests that will eventually bring down the Iranian regime, a clear reference to an ‘orange revolution,’ a time-honored non-violent method to change a regime.  The U.S. Administration thinks it so important, Ukraine and Georgia may seem like rehearsals before a premiere in oil-rich Iran.”

"Iran Breaks UN Seals"

Kirill Zubkov wrote in reformist Gazeta (8/2):  "Iran is planning to reopen an uranium-enrichment plant in Isfahan, meaning an end to the talks with the European Troika (Britain, France and Germany).   The decision must be due to changes in the political situation within Iran....   With the new President, there is little hope for normalization with the United States.  The new Iranian leadership must think it can draw on North Korean experience.   In the North Korean case, nuclear blackmail paid off, as the United States finally recognized the DPRK’s sovereignty last week.   Iranian authorities seek recognition of their ‘nuclear sovereignty.'"

"Pragmatic Policy"

Yevgeniy Shestakov said in official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (8/2): "Even U.S. experts admit that the Iranians are quite pragmatic when it comes to nuclear security and are careful in how they play their 'trump' card.   That Tehran refuses to wait another week and openly challenges the EU can only mean that it never intended to accept any of the EU’s proposals.  The Ayatollahs’ tough stand on nuclear future meets Iran’s political interests, as 80% of its population want it to go nuclear, and the country’s gold and currency reserves, combined with high oil prices, make it less vulnerable to sanctions.  Also, Tehran has profitable oil contracts with China and India....  The Iranians have been following the Six-Party talks in Beijing, and know that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been offered unprecedented economic aid in exchange for scrapping its nuclear projects.  As both 'pragmatists' and ‘conservatives’ in the Iranian leadership lobby the nuclear program, the latter see the atom bomb as a guarantee of non-interference in Iran’s internal affairs, and the former as a bargaining chip in trade with the West.  Iran’s ultimatum fully meets the long- and short-term goals of the Ayatollahs’ regime.  Those behind it hope that the threat of new sanctions by the EU and United States will make the nation rally around its young President."

AUSTRIA:  "Iran's Playing Dangerous Games" 

Foreign affairs editor for centrist daily Die Presse Christian Ultsch wrote (8/3):  "At first, there was no reaction at all. Nobody wanted to issue sharp comments on the Iranian provocation....  There is much at stake for France, just as there is for Germany and Britain.  As the EU-3 they tried to prove Europeans are capable of easing international crises.  So far, they mainly succeeded in being led on by Iran for the last two years....  In the meantime, the U.S. is busy trying to find an exit strategy from the Iraqi disaster and talk the North Koreans out of the nuclear bomb. The last thing they need in the present situation is a new crisis scenario, especially since the Iranians can help make life even more difficult for American soldiers in neighboring Iraq. The strategists in Tehran are exploring their options step by step.  As yet, they have not begun to enrich uranium and thus produce the basic material for nuclear bombs. They are still one step below that on the escalation ladder. They want to convert uranium ore into uranium hexfluoride--a precondition for the enrichment process that is to follow.  This game has two dangerous facets:  Either the Mullahs underestimate the West's determination and are provoking a new war or they will really get their hands on the bomb."

"Dangerous Escalation"

Foreign affairs writer for independent daily Der Standard Alexandra Foederl-Schmid expressed the view (8/2):  "Just before the inauguration of conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this Thursday, Tehran has increased its pressure on the EU negotiators--and not just verbally.  With the removal of the seals that protect the nuclear installation in Isfahan, Iran has taken action. This is a dangerous escalation in a process that has been dragging on for months now.  It is a slap in the face for the EU team that has been trying, since last December, to get Iran to renounce its uranium enrichment program once and for all.  However, so far results have been meager.  The EU negotiators have failed to extract a guarantee that the Iranian nuclear program will only be used for civilian purposes.  The U.S. that, for decades, has been charging Iran with secretly working on the development of nuclear weapons, feels confirmed in its distrust of Tehran's intentions.  It is to be hoped that Iran will remain open for negotiations and not provoke a further escalation after the inauguration of its new President."

BELGIUM:  "Crucial Test For The EU"

Mia Doornaert commented in Christian-Democrat Der Standaard (8/3):  “Two years ago, France, Germany, and Great Britain--the so-called EU-3--began negotiations with Iran about the latter’s nuclear program. By doing so, the three countries wanted to show to the United States that the diplomatic carrot could achieve more than the military stick. Today, the EU--in the name of which the EU-3 are talking--runs the risk of being rebuffed…  One has the impression that these negotiations were a dialogue of the deaf. The EU’s rational and pragmatic approach is that Iran is experiencing serious economic problems and needs Western economic and technological assistance. The EU believes that this assistance, which is reportedly going to be offered on August 7, will largely make up for Iran’s suspension of its uranium enrichment program.  But the theocratic regime in Tehran has a religious, ideological, and nationalist agenda. The mullahs do not have a clue about economic management.  They want to maintain their fundamentalist regime, continue the ideological battle against the American Satan, and make Iran a major power in the region.  Plans to develop nuclear weapons fit in the last ambition.  Iran claims that it is not trying to acquire nuclear weapons.  But in a blatant violation of the NPT, Iran has kept its nuclear activities hidden from the IAEA during eighteen years.  Why would it have done that if its purposes were peaceful?  Tehran's maneuvers represent a crucial test for the EU.  Iran seems to be relying on the fact that the attractiveness of its oil and of its markets will prevail over principles and promises.  It is positive that the EU-3 are not letting themselves become divided, and the entire EU should support them if the EU wants to remain credible."

"Iran Accepts The Potential Consequences Of Its Decision"

Vienna correspondent Maurin Picard in left-of-center Le Soir commented (8/2):  “What European diplomats feared finally happened: taking advantage of the reduced activities in Western chanceries during the summer period, Iran carried out its threats to resume its nuclear program.... For the time being, enrichment activities that would enable Iran to produce the nuclear fuel for civilian or military applications are excluded.  But in spite of this purely symbolic restraint, Iran’s decision sounds the knell of three years of efforts by the EU to prevent another international crisis.  The United States and Israel, worried by the turn events were taking, repeatedly urged Tehran to stop its nuclear projects, threatening Iran with air strikes without advance warning.  If Iran does resume its nuclear activities, London, Berlin, and Paris, forced to admit the failure of their repeated mediation attempts, will face up to their responsibilities....  They might call for an IAEA extraordinary meeting and recommend that the UN Security Council be seized.  It seems that Tehran has accepted this risk.  The example of North Korea, which is being subjected to public obloquy by Washington, seems to have convinced the Mullahs to bravely try their luck.  After having withdrawn from the NPT in order to develop nuclear weapons in January 2003, Pyongyang was sanctioned by the UN Security Council, with no other consequence....  That is the scenario that is likely to happen again, unless Washington decides to avoid it at any cost, without waiting for a UN Security Council’s Resolution.”

"The EU's Iranian Dossier"

Olivier Mouton in independent La Libre Belgique opined (8/2):  “The Europeans are furious about this unilateral decision and embarrassed by the turn events are taking. The Iranian dossier was a test for the EU’s ambition to solve such crises through diplomatic means....  The United States only reluctantly agreed to this dialogue between Iran and the EU, Washington preferring that the dossier be referred to the UN Security Council, where sanctions might be decided....  Should Iran actually resume its nuclear activities, the Europeans would have no  alternative but to refer the case to the IAEA, with the prospect of seeing the dossier transmitted to the UN Security Council.  And while the Brits said that they wanted to ‘clarify Iran’s intentions,’ there is nevertheless a great chance that Europe’s ‘pacifist’ approach will ultimately fail, which is harmful.”

CZECH REPUBLIC:  "What Is The Reasoning?"

Adam Cerny editorialized in the business Hospodarske noviny (8/3):  "What is the reasoning behind the Iranian government’s decision to renew its nuclear program?  Are they attempting to secure a higher bonus from the West if they indeed guarantee a stop to their nuclear program.  However, there is always a limit to all negotiations and increasing one’s demands, beyond which you cannot return without losing a face....  The European Union feels an immediate threat, especially the three countries negotiating the issue.  The diplomatic activity of Great Britain, France and Germany should prove the effectiveness of joint foreign policy.  It should also be a parallel and for some even an alternative to the tough attitude of Washington.  If this 'troika' action fails, it will be a disgrace for the concept of the E.U. foreign policy.  It would also encourage those conservatives in the U.S. who maintain that the dialogue with Tehran is a waste of time from its beginning.   Both, the Europeans and the Americans, indicate that the next negotiations should be in the Security Council which accused Iran of breaking the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.  At this point, Russia and China could enter the negotiations.  There is one bad solution and one worse.  The first one would be a one-sided attack (similar to Israel’s bombing of Osirak in 1981) that would probably bring about an even tenser situation in the Near East.  But if Iran rejects the agreement and remains unpunished it could have even worse consequences because it would serve as a precedent for other countries to follow."

"Nuclear Pride"

Petr Pesek commented in the center-right daily Lidove noviny (8/2):  "Nuclear energy for Iran is not a matter of reason, but of prestige.  Iran announced yesterday that it will renew uranium enrichment; it is a typical demonstration of the unpredictability, which the negotiators have to face when holding talks with the representatives in Tehran. What are the Iranians intending by such a risky step?...  The European 'troika' did well when it ignored yesterday's Iranian ultimatum, which was Tehran's attempt to reach 'a right to nuclear energy.'  It would be a mistake to be on the defensive when negotiating, especially if there is a danger of misuse of the Iranian nuclear program for military purposes.  It must be clear to the Europeans (and to many of them unquestionably it is), how much the Iranians are pining for nuclear energy.  After years of persuading their citizens that they have a right to it--just like the Israelis--each step back will be difficult for them."

IRELAND:  "Iran Crisis"

The center right, populist Irish Independent editorialized (8/1):  "The Iranian government's announcement that it is to restart its uranium conversion facility at Isfahan appears to have caught the EU off guard.  This was, after all, the very thing that last November's Paris agreement between the EU and Iran was supposed to prevent.  The Iranian government claims that the EU promised to present a package of incentives for it to scale down its nuclear ambitions by today at the latest--and that since no package has been forthcoming it will restart the reactors.  But France, Germany and Britain--which represent the EU--argue there was no rigid deadline and warn that if Iran proceeds with its program, it is itself in breach of the agreement.  Iran could be just trying to speed up the delivery of the incentives package; several measures would be a great help to it economically, such as lifting the block on its membership of the World Trade Organization.  But the greater danger is that Tehran has decided to step up its nuclear program solely on national security grounds--that it is now determined to develop its own nuclear weapon.  That could rapidly turn this diplomatic spat into a full-blown crisis."

LUXEMBOURG: "Two Different Measures"  

Foreign Affairs Editor Francis Wagner wrote in the socialist Tageblatt (8/2):  “Iran seems firmly decided to take up its atomic program again despite all the warnings from the European Union.  Nuclear weapons in the hands of an obscurantist Mullah regime is not necessarily what the world needs at present.   But Tehran does not claim without reason the hypocrisy of the West.  Israel has for a long time possessed nuclear weapons....   Besides, Washington paid court to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose country likewise procured itself a nuclear weapons arsenal without asking anybody’s permission.  The Indians will even receive support for their civilian atomic program, although they absolutely do not think anything of bomb nonproliferation.  Above all, however, Tehran knows that the Americans do not have the military means to intervene in Iran by force: they are obviously already overtaxed by the Iraq war.”         

ROMANIA:  "The EU-Iran Dialogue Or The War Of The Nerves"

Simona Haiduc commented in the independent daily Curentul (8/2):  “The tension created by the rush of President Mohammad Khatami’s regime to resume nuclear activity might entail a modification of the original plans.  Besides all this, there is a question: Why all this rush? What is Khatami after?  Can it be the desire to create pointless problems for his successor, whose victory in the elections a month ago took not only the Tehran political elite, but also the entire international community by surprise?....   For the time being, Tehran has every chance of being sanctioned by the UN, and even of becoming a target of U.S. military interventions, for which the Islamic republic is one of the candidates for an operation similar to the Iraqi one.”

MIDDLE EAST

ISRAEL:   "Nuclear Blackmail Pays"

Washington correspondent Orly Azolai wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (8/3): "The day President Bush defined Iran as a leading 'axis of evil' country, he started putting together a series of allegations in order to justify a future military operation against it.  On Tuesday, it turned out that his claims...don't hold water.  U.S. intelligence found that Iran doesn't represent a threat against world peace in the immediate term, but Bush doesn't like being confused with facts....  Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected Iran's president, the American 'spin' has turned into real brainwashing.  According to the White House, Satan resides in Tehran.  In two years, the ayatollahs would be a pushbutton away from annihilating the world.  Vice President Cheney has already declared that if the crisis wasn't solved through diplomatic ways, America had offensive military options.  But all the American intelligence branches have just spat in the President's face....  President Bush isn't the first leader in history who has tried to preserve his political power by intimidating citizens, but he has turned this approach into an art: in Iraq and Afghanistan first, and now in Iran....  For their part, the Iranians continue their policy of ambiguity.  They know the truth, but they don't care whether the world fears them and continues to woo them.  Nuclear blackmail pays--just ask North Korea."

"An Ultimatum With Domestic Considerations"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (8/1): "It appears as though the acceleration of the presentation of the ultimatum pertains more to the political calendar in Iran and less to pressure being applied on Europe.  Next Saturday, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is supposed to be sworn in as president of Iran.... The European assumption was that, despite the fact that Ahmadinejad's views are considered extremist, he was likely to want to present a more moderate line at the beginning of his term, and that he was worthy of being granted an opportunity.  In order to remove that dilemma from the new president's path, Iran had to present the ultimatum as a decision of the outgoing regime, thus tossing the dilemma into the European Union's lap."

ASIA PACIFIC

AUSTRALIA:  "Tehran Throws Down Nuclear Gauntlet"

Professor Amin Saikal at the Australian National University asserted in an op-ed in the liberal Melbourne Age (8/2):  “it is important for the Iranian and American sides to work hard to ensure the success of the talks between Iran and the three European powers.  Yet for the talks to succeed, those involved may need to go beyond the nuclear issue to tackle the conditions that have led the Iranians to live in constant fear of the U.S. and Israel--and the latter two to remain increasingly suspicious of Iran' s nuclear intentions.  There is a political context to the nuclear row whose viable resolution depends very much on how those involved can politically come to terms with each other.  If Washington recognizes the Iranian Islamic regime, stops constantly threatening it, and agrees to a region-wide system of WMD control to include Israel, it may go a long way to dealing with the nuclear issue.  But Washington has never wished Israel to become subject to the same constraints as the Arabs and Iranians.”

SOUTH ASIA

PAKISTAN:  "Crisis Looms As Iran N-Issue Hots Up"

The English-language Dawn wrote (8/1):  "Iran was preparing on Sunday to defy the European Union by restarting an ultra-sensitive nuclear activity that could plunge talks with the EU on its atomic program into crisis and risk UN Security Council action.  A source said Iran would inform the UN nuclear watchdog on Monday that it would immediately resume uranium conversion activities, a dramatic move that heightens the risk Tehran will be hauled before the Security Council for possible sanctions.  The move came after Iran demanded that the European Union deliver its latest proposals in a mooted nuclear deal by Sunday, a call that was only answered by expressions of astonishment and fury by the countries involved.  However it remains to be seen whether the Islamic republic will stand by its rhetoric and take the consequences.  A last minute U-turn cannot be excluded after such a change of mind was made in a similar situation in April.  Iran will 'on Monday give the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) the letter announcing the resumption' of uranium conversion activities....  The restart will begin immediately, the source said after a meeting of Iran’s top security body."

"Iran Says U.S. Failure Behind Ahmadinejad Accusations"

The liberal Lahore-based Daily Times commented (7/31):  "Iran said U.S. accusations that its President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had helped take dozens of U.S. diplomats hostage after the 1979 Islamic revolution were due to its failure to influence Iran and its elections.  The White House accuses Ahmadinejad of being a leader of the radical students who stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, but says it is still trying to determine if he was one of the hostage-takers that held 52 U.S. diplomats for 444 days.  Ahmadinejad, a conservative opposed to rebuilding ties with the United States, takes over as President next week.  'Such remarks in the run-up to the transfer of power in the Islamic Republic of Iran derive from U.S. disillusion with Iran’s independent policies and our nation’s ignoring the White House demand to boycott the elections,' Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said in a statement late on Friday.  The United States says the Islamic Republic is a state sponsor of terrorism and accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons, charges Tehran strongly denies."

"Iran Accuses U.S. Of Double Standard Over N-Issue"

The liberal Lahore-based Daily Times published (7/29):  "Iran accused the Bush administration on Wednesday of operating a double standard and undermining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by agreeing to aid India’s civil nuclear program, while insisting that Tehran abandon its nuclear ambitions or face international sanctions.  The Iranian accusation will raise the temperature as the EU3--Britain, France and Germany--prepare to unveil a 'final' draft proposal on curbing Iran’s nuclear program early next month.  The U.S. and Israel suspect Iran is only months away from acquiring nuclear weapons capability, a charge Tehran flatly denies."

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