Foreign Ministers Soften Line Against Iran and Sudan

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The New York Sun

UNITED NATIONS – Muscular American-led policy on how to deal with several world hot spots was significantly softened yesterday as Turtle Bay hosted foreign ministers of the main powers. As the diplomats looked to find common ground, tough policies on Iran, the Palestinian Arab territories, Lebanon, and Sudan were softened.

The French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, said he was seeking “security guarantees” as part of a new European initiative to offer a package of incentives for Iran to drop its uranium enrichment program. According to several diplomats, the French idea was that the package would include a guarantee that America will not use military action to force Tehran to abandon its advance toward nuclear weapons capability

This was only one of several “carrots” floated yesterday at Turtle Bay after weeks when the discussion has been mostly about enforcement measures. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said he always prefers “reasonable proposals.” Sometimes, he said, “a big carrot could serve as a stick.”

Russia has offered Iran joint nuclear enrichment program on Russian soil. Although several Iranian officials have rejected the idea, Mr. Lavrov insisted yesterday that the proposal is viable.

A French diplomat insisted that the ideas on new incentives for Iran were yet to be discussed with other European partners. For them to be enacted, he added, Iran first has to agree to suspend its nuclear activities. While the European proposals are being digested by Tehran, a strong Security Council resolution meant to punish Iran for its intransigence was postponed.

“We’re going to take the time that we need,” Secretary of State Rice told The New York Sun. “We want to do this right.”With American backing, the Europeans have been pushing to enact a resolution aimed at Iran under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which makes a resolution mandatory and allows for sanctions and even military action.

On Iran, it became increasingly clear that despite American U.N. Ambassador, John Bolton, pushing for a council vote on a tough resolution this week, the negotiations would last much longer. “It will take weeks,” said a top British foreign ministry official, asking to remain anonymous. The Europeans look for council unity, he said.

On another front, the isolation imposed on the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority began to thaw yesterday as an international fund was contemplated to alleviate the humanitarian needs in the Palestinian Arab areas.

The Palestinian Authority depends on donations for survival. Its $180 million a month budget has been depleted since the election of Hamas and the American-led policy of isolating the terror organization until it agrees to conditions, including recognition of Israel.

The new fund, defined as a “temporary international mechanism,” was proposed by the European Union and may be controlled by the World Bank. It was set for three months only with “full transparency and accountability” to ensure the funds would go “to the Palestinian people.” The details, however, needed to be worked out, and it was not clear how to bypass Hamas-led ministries charged with humanitarian affairs.

Also, as a new proposal for a council resolution on Lebanon was discussed, an American insistence on highlighting Iran’s interference in Lebanon’s politics, as well as a demand to disarm Hezbollah, met with resistance from the French. Paris wants Hezbollah to disarm as part of a “national dialogue” among the different Lebanese factions.

On Sudan, President Bush said Monday that he had dispatched Ms. Rice to Turtle Bay so she could advance the world’s involvement in the aftermath of an American-brokered peace agreement between rebels and the Sudanese government.

Chinese foreign minister Li Zhaoxing, however, told the council yesterday that any action to end the Darfur genocide must be first approved by Khartoum, which is widely considered responsible for the attacks on villagers.

Secretary General Annan said he sent a letter yesterday to Sudan’s President al-Bashir, calling on him to allow U.N. military planners to enter the country to prepare for a 20,000-strong U.N. force. The government has resisted the force, meant to protect civilians in Darfur, and has so far refused to grant visas to the planners. U.N. officials said yesterday that it would still take a while before the team could enter the country.

American diplomats said, however, they hoped a new resolution approving the new force in Sudan will be voted on by the council as early as this week. There was a lot of resistance in the council, however, to one provision in the proposed resolution, calling for NATO military planning mission to be sent to Sudan in addition to the one sent by the U.N. Mr. Bush said he hoped NATO could contribute to the new force.

The New York Sun

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