The lead foreign officials from the United States and the European Union convened yesterday in Washington to discuss potential strategies for luring Iran back into negotiations over its disputed nuclear activities, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, April 15).
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana spoke separately with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Iran policy adviser Dennis Ross, shortly after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he was developing new proposals for addressing Western suspicions that his country's nuclear program is geared toward weapons development. Tehran has maintained that its nuclear work is aimed strictly at producing energy for civilian use.
"With respect to the latest speeches and remarks out of Iran, we welcome dialogue," Clinton said after the meeting. "We've been saying that we are looking to have an engagement with Iran, but we haven't seen anything that would amount to any kind of proposal at all."
"We will continue to work with our allies to make it clear that Iran cannot continue to pursue nuclear weapons," she said, vowing further action by the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany, which have pursued new nuclear dialogue with Iran. "We will stand behind the sanctions that have already been implemented, and we will look for new ways to extend collective action (on) Iran's nuclear program."
Solana noted that Iran has not yet replied to his latest invitation to new talks with the six powers.
Ross is expected to discuss the evolving U.S. policy on Iran during visits to other Middle Eastern states later this month, officials said (Matthew Lee, Associated Press I/Google News, April 15).
Clinton denied reports that the United States would no longer require Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program before rejoining multilateral nuclear talks, Bloomberg reported. The uranium enrichment process can produce nuclear power plant fuel but also weapons material.
“We have not dropped or added any conditions,” she said (Bill Varner, Bloomberg, April 16).
One Iranian official said his country might "eventually" accept more invasive international audits of its nuclear sites to provide reassurance that it is not secretly developing nuclear weapons, Reuters reported. Tehran ended its adherence to the International Atomic Energy Agency Additional Protocol three years ago to protest the first economic penalties imposed by the U.N. Security Council over its uranium enrichment program.
"Eventually Iran may agree to accept the Additional Protocol," the official said, adding that suspending uranium enrichment was "out of the question."
The six world powers since 2006 have offered Iran various diplomatic and financial benefits in hopes of persuading it to halt enrichment activities, but Tehran has consistently refused to suspend the effort as a precondition to negotiate with the six powers (Kalantari/Pleming, Reuters, April 15).
Ahmadinejad's new proposal for addressing the standoff would not address Iran's enrichment work, a conservative Iranian lawmaker said.
"Iran does not want to negotiate about enrichment of uranium and considers it as done and taken for granted," Iranian parliament member Hamid Reza Haji Babaie said, according to the the Los Angeles Times.
"The new package from the Iranian side means all sit at the table and all consult to get to common ground. Not like before, when others asked and only Iran was supposed to be accountable and had to answer," he added (Daragahi/Mostaghim, Los Angeles Times, April 16).
Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates this week cautioned Israel against launching a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Such an attack would set Tehran's nuclear progress back between one and three years, but it would "cement their determination to have a nuclear program, and also build into the whole country an undying hatred of whoever hits them," Gates said.
Israeli President Shimon Peres said in a radio interview Sunday that his country would attack Iran if it failed to curb its nuclear program, the newspaper reported (Paul Richter, Chicago Tribune, April 16).
In talks yesterday with the U.S. envoy for the Middle East, though, Peres appeared to reverse course.
"Talk of a possible Israeli attack on Iran is not true," Peres said told U.S. envoy George Mitchell, according to the Israeli president's office. "The solution to Iran is not military" (Steve Weizman, Associated Press II/Google News, April 16).