Associated France Press (AFP) Tues. 23/5/2006
Gulf states seek Iran dialogue on nuclear policy
ABU DHABI (AFP) - Oman and the United Arab Emirates said that Gulf Arab states want direct talks with Iran to help resolve the crisis provoked by Tehran’s nuclear programme and strongly backed European efforts for a negotiated settlement.
Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah told reporters after talks with his visiting German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier that Europe could count on the Gulf states’ support to help end the standoff.
"We expressed our great respect for the German side for its constant efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution that is acceptable for all the parties concerned," he said.
"We strongly support these efforts and are committed to continuing close consultations with the German side on this question."
Information Minister Hamad bin Mohammad al-Rashdi told reporters traveling with Steinmeier, who began a Gulf visit Saturday, that Oman wanted to do what it could to avert a confrontation between Tehran and the West.
Asked whether a Gulf Arab delegation might visit Tehran soon, Rashdi said this was still under discussion.
The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates noted after talks with Steinmeier in Abu Dhabi later Monday that the six Gulf states had agreed in December to send a delegation to Tehran to "tell the Iranians about our fears". "The Iranians have to be patient and recognize our fears," Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said, adding that these included the potential environmental hazards to the Gulf of an Iranian nuclear reactor.
He did not offer a new timetable for the initiative.
Steinmeier said that Sheikh Abdullah had also shared his fears about the spectre of an Iranian nuclear bomb and said the involvement of Iran’s neighbors in the region was key at this critical juncture in the negotiations.
"I think we have an occasion to step up our common efforts to reach an agreement soon. That requires a reliable message from the Iranian leadership that they really want to return to the negotiating table," he said.
Iran’s hardline government reiterated Monday that its uranium enrichment programme was not up for negotiation, again rejecting European efforts to secure a halt to the sensitive nuclear work.
Iran says it only wants to make civilian reactor fuel, a right enshrined by the Non-Proliferation Treaty and overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah also spoke of the joint initiative to speak to Tehran after talks with Steinmeier Sunday.
None of the countries is calling the initiative mediation, however.
The initiative aims to facilitate "global cooperation (by Tehran) with the international community at large, and the International Atomic Energy Agency in particular," Sheikh Mohammed said Sunday.
Steinmeier said later in Abu Dhabi that his counterparts in all three countries he had visited on the tour so far had assured him that they would do "what was possible and appropriate" to facilitate dialogue with Tehran.
Any escalation in the international confrontation over Iran’s nuclear policy "would have disastrous results on the entire region", Rashdi said in Muscat.
"We hope that any confrontation would not be scaled up to harm the free passage of oil in the Strait of Hormuz," he said, adding that Oman hoped there would also be direct talks between the United States and Iran on the issue.