US warns Iran on nuke programme, Iraq

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States told Iran Wednesday not to resume enriching uranium, which could feed a nuclear weapon, and also cautioned Tehran to keep its hands out of Iraq’s internal affairs.
The latest US warnings followed an almost daily barrage of charge and countercharge between the two rivals, as both sides size up the situation following the presidential election win of hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The White House said it would continue to support efforts by the European Union to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

“There needs to be an objective guarantee from Iran to make sure that they are not developing nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian programme,” said spokesman Scott McClellan.

“That means there needs to be a permanent end to their uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities. We have made that very clear,” he said.

Asked whether the resumption of uranium enrichment would end US support for talks led by Britain, France and Germany, he replied: “I’m not going to play ‘what-ifs,’ but Iran did make a commitment” to freeze such activity.

“They need to abide by that commitment. They also need to abide by their international obligations, which they have violated over the last couple of decades,” said the spokesman.

Senior Iranian officials have recently been quoted as saying that Tehran will soon resume uranium enrichment and will reject any proposal from the European Union that does not recognise the Islamic republic’s right to do so.

The Islamic republic suspended enrichment in October 2003 and widened the freeze last year. However, it has a track record of covering up its activities and shopping illegally on the international black market.

The United States accuses oil-rich Iran of using a civilian nuclear energy programme to cover up activities linked to developing atomic weapons. Tehran has rejected the charge and said it has a right to nuclear power.

Britain, France and Germany are trying to convince Iran to abandon programme to enrich uranium — which could be diverted to making a bomb — and have promised to come up with the outlines of a long-term accord by the end of July.

The new US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad meanwhile said Tehran should not exploit its improving ties with Iraq to interfere in the affairs of the fledgling government in Baghdad.

“It is not US policy to advocate or promote a hostile relationship between Iraq and Iran, they are neighbours,” said Khalilzad at a briefing for foreign reporters.

“We want to see these two countries have good relations with each other, but good relations also means that everything be done that is not interference in Iraqi affairs.”

“All the neighbours may not seek to dominate particular Iraqi institutions, or Iraqi areas, and (should) work together to have an Iraq that can work for all Iraqis that can stand on its own feet, is at peace internally, as well as at peace with its neighbours.”

Iraq’s Defence Minister Saadun Dulaimi made a landmark visit to Iran last week, and both sides pledged to begin military and anti-terrorist cooperation.

Washington’s latest statements on Iran, came hours after Tehran furiously refuted a suggestion by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that it could be among the culprits for a suicide attack in Israel which killed four Israelis and the bomber.

“I wouldn’t want to suggest that I know about the attack today, but clearly that’s been one of the stated and continuous purposes of Iran, to harm Israel,” said Rumsfeld.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi hit back in a statement that Rumsfeld’s declaration “was aimed at trying to cover up the failure of the United States in the region.”

The United States has yet to reveal the results of its inquiry into claims that Ahmadinejad played a role in the 1979 seizure of hostages at the US embassy in Tehran. Close aides to Ahmadinejad have denied the claims made by several former US hostages.

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