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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

09 May 2006

Rice, Counterparts Meet To Discuss Long-term Strategy on Iran

Talks continue at U.N. headquarters; ministers agree Iran should suspend nuclear programs

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The five permanent members of the Security Council moved beyond negotiating a resolution to charting a long-term strategy to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions, U.S. officials said May 8.

The foreign ministers of the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom -- the five permanent Security Council members -- met privately with their German and European Union (EU) counterparts in what was described as a "long and intense discussion" lasting almost two hours.  It was the ministers' third meeting on Iran since January.

Diplomats said there was significant change and continued progress in defining strategic objectives.  The foreign ministers felt that "there had to be a long-term agreement on the overall strategy that will then inform the course of the work at the Security Council," said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

All six nations agree that Iran should not develop a nuclear-weapons capability, should suspend its current nuclear programs, abide by all the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and U.N. Security Council requirements laid out in various resolutions, and should return to negotiations, the official said.

The greatest change since the ministers last met in Berlin in March is their "sense of frustration" with the Iranians for ignoring the IAEA resolutions and Security Council presidential statement, the U.S. official said.

"There is no disagreement on the big picture -- what we want to see at the end.  There is not yet an agreement on the tactics," the official said.

Still unresolved is whether a Security Council resolution should be adopted under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which would make Iran's compliance mandatory and set the stage for further action.

Nevertheless, the official said, "the stakes are so high here given the gravity of the threat posed by Iran, no one is leaving the table and everyone is determined to move forward and find a way to an agreement."

France and the United Kingdom presented a draft resolution -- currently being negotiated at U.N. headquarters -- that would be adopted under Chapter 7 provisions.  China and Russia have objected to that clause, seeking to ensure that additional Security Council action would be needed to impose sanctions on Iran. (See related article.)

Negotiations may take a few more weeks, the U.S. official said.

FOCUS ON SENDING A CLEAR MESSAGE TO IRAN

The ministers agreed that their permanent representatives at the United Nations would continue to work on the resolution and political directors would meet in Europe the week of May 15 to continue work on the longer-term strategy.

More important, the U.S. official said, the ministers decided at the outset not to look at the draft resolution or refer to it, but concentrate on "what flexibility, compromises are needed to stay united" and to send a clear message to Iran.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and several other ministers said that "there had to be a process where Iran had to pay a price diplomatically and otherwise if it did not abide" by the IAEA and Security Council resolutions, the official said.

A number of the participants already have begun to talk about future sanctions, the U.S. official said.

The United States also is working outside the Security Council to encourage countries to consider options that would make clear that "it is no longer business as usual" with the Iranian government.  "That would include the possibility down the road of sanctions, whether through the council or outside the council," the official said.

Given the international community's inaction thus far, the Iranian government likely is focused on only the benefits of its nuclear program, the official said, adding: "We believe the goal of this exercise both inside and outside the council is to raise the cost to the Iranian government."

IRANIAN LETTER NOT AN ISSUE

Rice briefed the ministers on the content of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad's letter to President Bush, but it had no bearing on the talks, the U.S. official said.

The 18-page letter was a "philosophical discourse" on Tehran's view of the world and of U.S. policy.  The letter had "heavily religious overtones" and did not mention the nuclear nonproliferation issue, the U.S. official said.

"The letter does not present an opening for what we are discussing," the official said, adding that there was no call at the meeting for the United States to change its policy. (See related article.)

For additional information, see Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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