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Iran: UN Powers To Hold Further Talks On Nuclear Issue

PRAGUE, May 31 (RFE/RL) -- Top officials of the five permanent member states of the UN Security Council plus Germany will meet in Vienna on June 1 in an effort to find a unified position in the Iran nuclear crisis.

All sides have prepared carefully for the meeting in Vienna, including the one player in the crisis who will not be present -- Iran.

Ready For More Talks?

Tehran has sought to reduce tensions ahead of the session by announcing this week it is ready to resume talks on its nuclear program with Britain, France, and Germany, the so-called EU-3.

The EU troika is offering Tehran technical, trade, and security incentives to give up activities that could contribute to developing nuclear weapons.

Iran’s announcement that it wants to resume talking has been welcomed by Washington, which backs the EU-3 process, although it is not participating directly.

U.S. Seeks Resolution Regardless

However, the United States does not want to see any talks become a reason to put off a tough UN resolution on Iran.

"I'd say we're glad they're going back to the EU-3 talks and we hope that they produce productive results," said White House spokesman Tony Snow on May 30. "We've always been clear on the end state, which is that we want Iran to suspend all enrichment and reprocessing activities, and we wish them success."

The EU package -- which will almost certainly be discussed in Vienna -- represents a possible compromise that could assure the crisis is solved diplomatically.

Permanent UN Security Council members Russia and China have insisted that the standoff be resolved through negotiations.

But the Europeans also stress that Iranian rejection of the compromise would be a sign Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons and may have to be dealt with more firmly.

“If they reject [the incentives package], it probably will be once again a clear sign that what they are looking for is not only the production of energy, but [that] they are looking for a level of enrichment that goes way beyond what is necessary [for] the production of energy, entering into what we may call nuclear weapon type of enrichment," said European Union foreign-policy chief Javier Solana on May 30.

How Tough Should A Resolution Be?

At the meeting in Vienna, Washington will again try to rally the other powers around language demanding Tehran comply with the UN Security Council’s March 29 nonbinding resolution. The March resolution demanded Iran suspend enrichment-related activities.

But diplomats say Washington -- which wants to invoke a chapter of the UN charter that makes Security Council resolutions mandatory under international law -- is ready to offer some last-minute concessions to Russia and China.

The U.S. daily "The New York Times" reports today that “to placate the Russians, the United States has agreed to involve only Article 41 of Chapter 7.”

That approach would assure there is no mention of the possible use of force in making the resolution mandatory. Moscow is reportedly worried that any mention of force could open the way for Washington to move militarily against Iran.

"The New York Times" also reports today that “the American goal is get an agreement on a Security Council resolution this week, for possible approval in June.”

Amid the efforts to get a binding resolution, there are still no signs that Tehran will comply with the Security Council’s demands.

Iran's Statements

Tehran insists that all its nuclear activities are within the scope of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and that it will not give up its right to produce nuclear fuel through uranium enrichment.

The process of uranium enrichment, at high levels, can also produce nuclear-weapons materials.

"We want this issue to be resolved through the [International Atomic Energy Agency,] IAEA," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said on May 30 in Tehran. "We will not abandon our rights. But we are ready to reach a result through negotiations."

Recent days also have seen Iran trying to give the impression that it now has already mastered uranium enrichment and that any measures to make it suspend its programs are now pointless.

"Our nation has conquered the highest peaks of science through its persistence and its efforts," Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said in a May 24 speech in Khorramshahr. "And today, I proudly announce that Iran possesses, from [start to finish], the nuclear-fuel cycle for peaceful use."

International arms inspectors have yet to verify just what level of success Tehran has achieved.

Washington Pushes For Sanctions

Meanwhile, Washington remains determined to see Iran put an end to all dual-use nuclear activities.

Washington is said to be planning to ask European states and Japan to take independent punitive measures against Iran if Tehran ignores the Security Council’s anticipated new resolution.

The U.S. daily "The Washington Post" reported on May 29 that the plan “would restrict the Tehran government’s access to foreign currency and global markets, shut its overseas bank accounts, and freeze assets held in Europe and Asia.”

But there are no indications yet whether the EU and Japan – both of which have growing trade ties with Iran – would be prepared to take such tough measures outside a UN framework.

Copyright (c) 2006. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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