The diplomatic situation with respect to the brewing international crisis over Iran's nuclear program continued to be characterized by an extraordinary fluidity late Wednesday and early Thursday, and this was reflected in news reports. -- The Financial Times (UK) reported that European diplomats had made U.N referral "less certain" by agreeing to examine a new Russian proposal to Iran, frustrating the Bush administration's eagerness to have Iran "referred" to the U.N. Security Council by the International Atomic Energy Agency at its Feb. 2-3 meeting. -- But the American press agency AP portrayed Europe as "cranking up international pressure" on Tehran. -- The Daily Times of Pakistan, meanwhile, emphasized that Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki expressed confidence that, as he put Wednesday, there was only a "weak" possibility of Iran being referred to the U.N. -- An AP story showed how Russia has become the object of intense lobbying by Israel, France, and Iran. -- Iran's ambassador to Russia, Gholamreza Ansari, told Ekho Moskvy radio: 'We know some countries [are] trying to deceive Russia with propaganda.'" ...
EU CONSIDERS NEW RUSSIAN PROPOSAL ON IRAN
By Guy Dinmore
Financial Times (UK)
January 18, 2006 - 23:51 UT
WASHINGTON -- U.S. efforts to discipline Iran over its nuclear program before the United Nations Security Council appeared less certain Wednesday night as European diplomats considered a new proposal from Russia which wants more time to pursue its own negotiations with the Islamic republic.
Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said the Europeans were not enthusiastic about the Russian proposal but would consider it. Discussions with Moscow are expected to continue on Thursday, he told reporters in Washington.
The EU has cancelled its own scheduled appointment with Iran's nuclear delegation, despite Iran's willingness to meet, but still supports separate talks between Moscow and Tehran, Mr. Solana said. Those bilateral talks, expected to resume next month, are focused on supplying Iranian reactors with uranium enriched in Russia, not in Iran.
Russia has proposed holding a U.N. Security Council debate on Iran, but wants to hold off on a formal decision to refer the case from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the UN until March, Mr. Solana said.
The difference between a debate and referral was significant, he said. Referral had "more guts." The U.S. and EU shared "a pretty common approach," he said.
The EU3 of France, Germany, and the UK, which had been leading negotiations with Iran for more than two years, yesterday circulated a draft resolution to put before an extraordinary board meeting of the IAEA expected on February 2.
Driven by Iran's decision to end its voluntary freeze, remove IAEA seals, and resume nuclear fuel research, the EU3 and the U.S. are looking first for censure of Iran at the Security Council and possibly sanctions later.
Meeting the EU3 and the U.S. in London on Monday, both Russia and China expressed their misgivings. U.S. and European officials remain confident they have the majority needed on the IAEA board to get their way, but the referral would lose weight if significant governments voted against or abstained.
Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran's president, said the draft IAEA resolution was politically motivated.
Condoleezza Rice, U.S. secretary of state, on Wednesday said Iran must not be allowed to get a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its program is civilian.
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN IRAN STANDOFF
January, 18, 2006 - 23:58 UT
Wednesday's developments in diplomatic efforts on halting Iran's quest for nuclear technology:
-- Europe, backed by the United States, rejected Iran's request for talks on its nuclear program, cranking up international pressure on Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment.
-- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said "there's not much to talk about" until Iran halts nuclear activity, saying the Islamic republic and its current leaders are not trusted with such technology. Rice met in Washington with the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.
-- Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, accused the West of acting like the "lord of the world" in denying his country the peaceful use of the atom.
-- In Vienna, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, announced that a special meeting of its 35-nation board of governors would be held Feb. 2. The United States, France, Britain, and Germany had requested the meeting to consider referring Iran to the Security Council, which could impose sanctions.
-- With Russia reluctant to refer Iran to the Council, French and Israeli officials went to Moscow to make their case. Iran's ambassador urged Moscow to resist what he called pressure from other countries.
-- Solana said that at a meeting in London on Monday, Russia proposed having the Security Council host a debate on Iran's nuclear activities. The proposal would postpone referral to the Council for possible action against Iran at least until the agency's meeting in March.
-- German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart. Egypt, which holds a seat on the IAEA board, has balked at throwing its support behind referring Iran to the Council. Iran sent a senior official to Cairo to meet with Amr Moussa of the Arab League.
-- French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin held talks in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and said European nations are seeking the "greatest possible consensus to mark clearly the limit of what we can accept."
-- President Bush called Merkel to discuss developments in Iran, said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.
IRAN CONFIDENT OF ESCAPING SECURITY COUNCIL REFERRAL
** Says Europe should not take hasty decisions on nuclear issue **
Daily Times (Pakistan)
January 19, 2006
TEHRAN -- Irans Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Wednesday there was only a weak chance of his country being referred to the U.N. Security Council over its disputed nuclear program.
Taking into account the current context, the possibility of Irans case being sent to the Security Council is weak, he was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA. He nevertheless warned Britain, France, and Germany -- which are pushing for Irans case to be sent to New York -- not to take any hasty steps. I hope the Europeans have understood Irans very clear and direct message and do not make any hasty decision . . . which would complicate the situation for all sides, he said.
Irans decision to resume sensitive nuclear fuel research has intensified fears that the clerical regime is seeking the bomb. The country insists it only wants to make reactor fuel to generate electricity.
Another official also repeated the threat that if Iran is referred to the Security Council, U.N. inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency would lose their current level of access to the Islamic republics nuclear facilities and Iran would resume full-scale uranium enrichment work -- which remains frozen for the time being.
Enrichment makes reactor fuel, but can be extended to make the core of a nuclear weapon.
If our case goes to the Security Council, whether as a simple warning, to reinforce the head of the IAEA or even to decide on sanctions, the government will be obliged to put an end to it suspension of activities, national security spokesman Hossein Entezami told the government newspaper Iran. He said Iran would also cease the application of the additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which gives agency inspectors a free hand in the IAEA probe.
This means our cooperation with the IAEA would be reduced, and the agency does not want this to happen, Entezami said.
Meanwhile, Irans Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday the world could not deflect Iran from its scientific developments, a reference to mounting pressure over the countrys nuclear program.
The Islamic Republic, based on its principles, without being scared of the fuss created, will continue on its path of scientific developments and the world cannot influence the Iranian nations will, he was quoted as saying by state television.
We are not after nuclear weapons and the West knows this because obtaining nuclear weapons is against the countrys political and economic interests and is against Islamic teachings, added Khamenei, who has the last word on all state matters. The IAEA has accepted that we are now part of the atomic club, the leader said.
ISRAEL PRESSES RUSSIA OVER IRAN
By Henry Meyer
January 19, 2006
Israel's national security adviser pressed Russia on Wednesday on its intentions concerning the nuclear standoff between the West and Iran, but Tehran's ambassador to Moscow urged the Kremlin to resist what he called pressure from other countries.
An Israeli security delegation was in town for talks on Iran's nuclear program ahead of a visit by France's foreign minister, amid efforts to persuade Russia to back referring Tehran to the U.N. Security Council over its suspected nuclear weapons ambitions.
"We would like to understand the Russian position concerning Iran's plans. We are pleased that we can express our concerns over this issue," Israeli National Security chief Giora Eiland said at a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Itar-Tass reported.
The delegation, which also met with Security Council head Igor Ivanov and Federal Atomic Energy Agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko, hopes to win Russian support for referring the Iranian nuclear issue to the Security Council, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
A referral to the council, where Russia is a permanent, veto-wielding member, could lead to sanctions against Iran, which defied the international community last week by removing U.N. seals from its main uranium enrichment facility.
Iran on Wednesday said it was unlikely that Europe and the United States would succeed in referring it to the Security Council, and its president said the West should act with more "logic" in the standoff with his country.
Tehran's defiant tone came as France rejected Iran's request for a resumption of negotiations on the Islamic republic's nuclear program. Paris said Iran must first suspend its atomic activities.
Iran's ambassador to Russia, Gholamreza Ansari, meanwhile, reiterated that Tehran was still considering a Russian proposal designed to break the deadlock -- assurances that have met with skepticism in London.
He told Ekho Moskvy radio that Tehran hopes "Russia will stand up to . . . the pressure against it." He said: "We know some countries [are] trying to deceive Russia with propaganda."
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, who was expected to arrive in the evening and hold talks with Russian officials Thursday, stressed the need for a united stance on Iran.
But Lavrov said Tuesday that Moscow believed it was too early to refer Tehran to the U.N. Security Council.
Lavrov criticized the prospect of Security Council sanctions against Iran and said there was still a chance the standoff could be resolved by diplomacy focusing on the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
European leaders are looking at how to proceed before a Feb. 2-3 emergency IAEA board meeting to discuss what action to take. A meeting Monday produced no agreement between France, Britain and Germany -- which have led negotiations with Iran for the European Union -- and Russia and China on whether to refer the dispute to the Security Council.
President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Tehran might still agree to Moscow's offer to move its uranium enrichment program to Russia, a step backed by the United States and EU as a way to resolve the deadlock.
"We haven't turned down this proposal," Ansari said Wednesday." The Iranian government is looking attentively at the proposal, but it needs time. So I think Russia should have a certain time to perfect this proposal."
Lavrov said negotiations with Iran on the initiative would take place in Russia around Feb. 16 -- long after the IAEA board meeting.