Envoy sees progress on Iran

U.S. diplomat says nations show growing urgency on nuclear arms

April 20, 2006|By DAVID HOLLEY | DAVID HOLLEY,LOS ANGELES TIMES

MOSCOW -- A global coalition trying to ensure that Iran does not acquire the ability to produce nuclear weapons shows a growing sense of urgency in dealing with the issue, a top U.S. diplomat said yesterday after multilateral meetings. However, the coalition has not agreed on what steps to take, the diplomat said.

After two days of talks that included representatives of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations and key members of the United Nations Security Council, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said that all participants are anxiously seeking a way to jointly pressure Iran to rein in its nuclear ambitions.

"What's new is, I think, a greater sense of urgency, given what the Iranians did last week," Burns said yesterday, referring to new steps in uranium enrichment announced by Tehran.

Iran says it wants to master uranium enrichment technology in order to have a self-sufficient nuclear energy industry and that it is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons. But the United States and other countries say Iran's actions have shown that its goal is to produce atomic bombs. Uranium enrichment can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants or material for bombs.

Burns discussed Iran at a dinner meeting Tuesday with representatives of Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and the European Union.

"What I heard in the room last night," Burns said, "was not agreement on the specific way forward, but on the general notion that Iran has to feel the isolation, the pressure of the international community, they have to have some cost to what they're doing. And I felt that was a significant step forward.

"Now we need to go beyond that, and we need to actually agree on the measures that will put that into operation," he said.

Russia and China have argued against using sanctions to pressure Iran. But Burns, without offering specifics, praised the stance of China's representative at the Tuesday dinner meeting.

"I was pleased by the very constructive attitude China took in the talks last night," he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov used tough language yesterday to criticize Iran but did not offer specifics of any steps that might be taken.

"The participants of yesterday's meeting all agreed that Iran is required to take urgent and constructive steps" in response to concerns expressed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Lavrov said in televised remarks. "It was decided to continue contacts in various formats to carry the message across to the leadership of Iran."

Iran was also the main focus of discussion at a meeting of G-8 representatives yesterday, Burns said.

"I leave here satisfied that we agree on the need to unite to dissuade Iran from its present course, that we now need to focus on the specific actions to take in the Security Council," Burns said. "Everybody believes the Security Council needs to take action, which is a step forward."

The Russian news agency Interfax reported yesterday evening that the Iranian delegation had met with diplomats from Britain, France and Germany, as well as meeting separately with Russian officials. There were no immediate reports about what occurred.

Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, on a visit to Azerbaijan, reiterated yesterday his country's determination to move forward with its nuclear efforts.

"The realization of Iran's nuclear program is a sovereign right of the Iranian people," he said in remarks carried on Russian television. "Iran is continuing to develop its nuclear program for peaceful purposes in accordance with the demands of millions of Iranians."

David Holley writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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