The five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany turned down an Iranian proposal to convene a meeting of top diplomats last week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York City, Tehran asserted today (see GSN, Sept. 28).
The six world powers have for years sought to resolve a dispute over elements of Iran's nuclear program that could support weapons development. Tehran has insisted its atomic work is strictly peaceful and consistently refused to consider curbing its controversial activities.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "said during his stay in New York that we are ready to meet the foreign ministers of the P-5+1 group but the proposal was ignored," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told state media, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
"There are two options in the nuclear talks -- either understanding or confrontation -- and what [U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] and the other foreign ministers have decided shows which option they prefer," Mottaki said. "She and the other foreign ministers have missed this golden opportunity."
Some of the top diplomats were open to the proposal as a possible means of advancing dialogue over the nuclear dispute, he suggested.
The six world powers have planned to be represented by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in atomic talks, while Iran has sought discussions with Ashton as well as additional talks with representatives of the six nations, according to DPA (Deutsche Presse-Agentur/Monsters and Critics, Sept. 29).
Meanwhile, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) yesterday pressed Clinton in a letter to penalize companies in China and Turkey for allegedly selling refined oil commodities to Iran, Agence France-Presse reported.
The Obama administration should "penalize those companies that are continuing to supply Iran with refined petroleum products" since the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act was signed into law this summer, the senators wrote (see GSN, July 2).
"According to press reports, these would include Turkey's Turpas, and China's Sinopec, National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), and Zhuhai Zhenrong," the lawmakers said in the letter.
They also called for penalties on Iran's central bank as well as additional moves "to ensure Iranian banks are not able to participate in the international banking system."
Iran's diplomatic overtures were only a delay tactic aimed at winning "a reprieve from sanctions," Schumer and Kyl added.
"We must urge our allies to resist any false entreaty to negotiate from Iran. You will have the full support of the Congress in doing all that's necessary to prevent a nuclear-armed [Iran]," they wrote. "The window to stop the Iranian regime from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability through sanctions is rapidly closing" (Agence France-Presse I/Google News, Sept. 28).
China needs to strengthen its economic and political relationship with Iran, the Associated Press today quoted a high-level Chinese official as saying.
"The two sides should work hard to maintain the momentum of development" of relations, Li Changchun, the Chinese Communist Party's fifth-highest official, said to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran (Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, Sept. 29).
Elsewhere, Iran today announced it would delay until January the planned opening of its Bushehr nuclear power plant, AFP reported.
The nation would finish placing fuel in the plant's reactor around early November, Iranian Atomic Energy Organization head Ali Akbar Salehi said.
"Two or three months from then, the electricity generated by the plant will be connected to the grid," he said (Agence France-Presse II/Spacewar.com, Sept. 29).
He added that Iran's antagonists had unsuccessfully attempted to sabotage nuclear infrastructure in the country with the "Stuxnet" computer worm, Iran's Press TV reported.
"We began taking computer security and safety measures since last year and over the past two months these safety measures have been intensified. Fortunately, we succeeded in preventing the enemy from achieving it[s] objectives," Salehi said.
"This (experience) led us to gain access to many technical measures and reach complete safety," the official said (Press TV, Sept. 29).
In Moscow, a Russian lawmaker suggested Iran could seek as much as $1 billion in damages over Russia's refusal to follow through on a promised delivery of an advanced air defense system, Interfax reported yesterday. Experts expressed concern that Iran could use the S-300 air defenses to help protect its nuclear facilities from potential airstrikes.
"Iran has the right to claim certain companion for the default on the contract. In the present conditions Russia will suffer losses in the amount of up to $1 billion," Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachyov told Russia Today.
"No financial losses should be more important to Russia than the political losses that it will bear if it violates the nonproliferation [regime]. The observance of the [regime] is much more important than money, the lawmaker added (Interfax, Sept. 28).
"Russia's involvement in the U.S.'s political games will not ensure the long-term interests of the Russian nation," state media quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying.
"Russia's [refusal to provide the S-300 system] is based on [U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929], which is both illegal and unfair," Mehmanparast said, according to RIA Novosti. The U.N. sanctions measure "does not include defensive weapons like S-300s," he said (RIA Novosti, Sept. 28).