Assocaited France Press (AFP) 9/5/2006
Six major powers to meet Monday to seek unity on Iran
NEW YORK (AFP) - Foreign ministers of six major powers will meet here Monday in a fresh bid to map out a common strategy to force Iran to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work that could be used for bombs.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will host her counterparts from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia as well as European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, at a working dinner that will focus on Tehran’s rejection of repeated UN demands to halt uranium enrichment.
The meeting will coincide with continuing bargaining in the 15-member UN Security Council on a Franco-British draft resolution that would legally require Iran to freeze all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.
It comes as Tehran vowed Sunday that it would refuse to comply with such a resolution, warning the diplomatic crisis was heading toward a "confrontation".
French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a joint call for a tough UN stance.
The two leaders agreed in a telephone conversation that the Security Council must adopt "a resolution making obligatory the requests of the IAEA, notably the suspension of uranium enrichment," the French president’s office said in a statement, referring to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency.
US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton told reporters Saturday that the ministers would "talk about the longer-term policy that we need to pursue to stop Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability" at Monday’s meeting.
"I think they could have that discussion on the assumption that (the Franco-British) resolution will be adopted next week and that therefore they can look at what the next steps are," he said.
Western powers suspect Iran is using its civilian atomic program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. But Iran insists its aims are peaceful and claims it has the right to pursue uranium enrichment as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
While insisting that it wants a diplomatic solution to the standoff with Tehran, Washington has not ruled out military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Russia and China adamantly oppose sanctions and the use of force against Iran, their key trading partner. They have veto power as permanent members of the Security Council along with Britain, France and the United States.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said Saturday the Franco-British draft, which is backed by the United States and Germany, "requires major changes".
Moscow and Beijing object to the draft’s reference to Chapter Seven of the UN charter and its suggestion that the Iranian nuclear program constitutes a threat to international peace and security.
Chapter Seven can authorize economic sanctions or military action as a last resort.
The proposed draft would oblige Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, the process creating fuel for nuclear reactors and -- potentially -- the core of an atomic bomb. It warns, in case of Iranian non-compliance, of unspecified "further measures" requiring another resolution.
It needs at least nine votes and no veto from any of the council’s permanent members to succeed.
But Iran shows no sign of backing down.
"The involvement of the Security Council will direct the path of cooperation towards confrontation," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Sunday, warning that the Security Council would not be able to enforce its demands.
"We will not accept any resolution that is against our rights," Asefi said, adding that "a suspension and pause (of enrichment) is not on the agenda at all."
Ahead of Monday’s high-level meeting, Rice telephoned her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. Diplomats said Rice would use Monday’s dinner to try to reassure her Russian and Chinese colleagues about US intentions.
Russia and China say the nuclear standoff can only be resolved diplomatically, with the IAEA leading the process.
In an interview broadcast Sunday, but taped Thursday, with German television channel ARD, US President George W. Bush said:"Iran should not have a weapon. If we want to solve this diplomatically, there must be a common front with a common strategy to achieve the objective."