Diplomats Disappointed with Iranian Refusal to Halt Uranium Enrichment

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LONDON (AP) – Top diplomats from six major powers are deeply disappointed with Iran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment and will discuss possible U.N. sanctions to force it to act, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said after a high-level meeting Friday.

Tehran had two choices when the United Nations demanded that it suspend enrichment, and “we regret that Iran has not yet taken the positive one,” Ms. Beckett said.

The representatives from America, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China did not appear to have reached any clear decision on what to do next during more than two hours of talks.

Secretary Rice arrived late at the meeting after her flight from Iraq was delayed by mechanical difficulties, meaning the diplomats had little time to reach a consensus. She did not appear afterward with Ms. Beckett, who reported on the outcome of the session.

A statement Ms. Beckett read stopped short of declaring that negotiations with Iran by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana’s had failed, but said the diplomats were “deeply disappointed that he has had to report that Iran is not prepared to suspend its enrichment-related reprocessing activities.”

Ms. Beckett said the six countries “will now consult on measures under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter.”

Article 41 authorizes the Security Council to impose nonmilitary sanctions such as completely or partially severing diplomatic and economic relations, transportation and communications links.

America and Britain are leading the push for sanctions against Tehran. To avoid alienating the Russians and the Chinese – both major commercial partners of Iran – any measures are likely to be relatively mild, including embargoes on missile and nuclear technology, and possible travel bans and other penalties on Iranian officials involved in their country’s nuclear program.

Britain’s U.N. ambassador said Thursday that he expected “the Iran dossier” to return to the Security Council in the next week, but Ms. Beckett set no time frame for action.

Even before the logistical problems that delayed Ms. Rice arose, it was clear there were significant differences among the participants, with Russia voicing reluctance to move toward sanctions and Ms. Rice suggesting it was “getting pretty close to … time” to take Iran to the Security Council.

“There is an issue of the credibility of the Security Council and the international system and you simply can’t just keep talking with no outcome,” she told reporters on her way to London.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said Thursday that sanctions would be “extreme” at this point, hinted Friday that Moscow might accept some action.

“We do not rule out additional measures” the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying in London. He was also quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency as saying there was still room for diplomacy.

His deputy, Alexander Alexeyev, warned that it would be “counterproductive” to speak to Iran “in the language of threats and ultimatums.”

Mr. Solana conceded this week that “endless hours” of talks with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, had made little progress and suggested the dispute could wind up at the U.N. soon.

Those negotiations had been seen as a final attempt to avoid a full-blown confrontation between Tehran and the Security Council after it ignored an Aug. 31 deadline to suspend uranium enrichment – a key step toward making nuclear weapons – or face punishment.

Mr. Solana said again Friday that talks with Iran could not be open-ended, but stressed his belief that diplomacy is the only possible solution.

“I’m convinced that `the Iran dossier’ can only be solved, and will be solved, through negotiations,” he said.

Ms. Beckett said the package of technological and political incentives which the six countries offered Iran in June was still on the table if it commits to freezing enrichment, which it has refused to do.

President Ahmadinejad was defiant Thursday, saying his country would not be intimidated.

Iran insists that its enrichment of uranium is purely for peaceful purposes to be used for nuclear energy. But America and many European nations believe Iran wants to enrich uranium to produce nuclear weapons.

Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman traveling with Ms. Rice, said officials from the six countries would hold a telephone conference Monday or Tuesday to continue talking.

The New York Sun

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