Moscow Denies Sanctions Deal against Iran

A02029287.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Russia yesterday denied having agreed with the US, UK and other countries to push for another round of economic sanctions against Iran at the United Nations.

US and British officials said there would be a push for further sanctions after Tehran said it would respond to the powers proposals after they remove a set of ambiguities existing in the package.

Washington called Iran’s response “unacceptable”, Germany said it was “inadequate”. Kim Howells, a British foreign minister, said there was “no choice but to pursue further sanctions against Iran”.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, dismissed reports that the powers had agreed on a path to more sanctions, saying there had been “no firm agreements or understandings”.

“The main thing to remember [is] that the negotiating track is open, it is being pursued, there are contacts between the parties,” Mr. Churkin was cited as saying by Reuters.

His comments followed yesterday’s telephone conference call on the Iranian nuclear issue between Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, and senior officials from the six powers pushing to negotiate an end to Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which include China, France and Russia.

They discussed a one-page letter from Saeed Jalili, Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator, received on Tuesday, which they had hoped would respond to their proposal.

This proposal, which has US backing, suggested a six-week period in which the powers would halt efforts to secure new sanctions in return for Iranian agreement not to augment its uranium enrichment program.

During this period, known as “freeze for freeze”, the two sides would discuss how to start negotiations proper, which would begin once Iran stopped enriching uranium altogether. But Mr. Jalili’s letter, which, said one official, covered just one side of paper in large-type English and a half page in Farsi, did not state Iran’s position on freeze for freeze and instead repeated Iran’s desire for broader security discussions.

At the UN, Churkin said, “We would have preferred a clear yes. But it is more complicated than that . . . We do believe that dialogue can continue.”

Talks over a fourth round of UN sanctions are unlikely to begin before September.

Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s illegitimate calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran has dismisses West’s demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians’ national resolve to continue the path.

Iran has also insisted that it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Tehran stressed that it considers its nuclear case closed as it has come clean of IAEA’s questions and suspicions about its past nuclear activities.

Yet, the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicts the report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seems to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Observers believe that the shift of policy by the White House to send William Burns – the third highest-ranking diplomat in the US – to the talks with Iran happened after Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran lost steam due to the growing international vigilance.

US President George W. Bush finished a tour of the Middle East in winter to gain the consensus of his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran’s case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic’s increased cooperation with the agency.

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