Tuesday, September 19, 2006

France Not in Favor of Sanctions

In what may be a split from the Bush adminsitration, French President Jacques Chirac said on September 18, 2006 that he is “never in favor of sanctions” and suggested that the United States and other nations could begin talks with Iran on its nuclear program before Iran formally suspends its nuclear activities. In a 45-minute interview on European radio, Chirac appeared to upend the diplomatic drive and signaled a widening breach on Iran between the United States and European partners, reminiscent of the debate over the Iraq invasion four years ago. He also noted in his interview that the difficulties in Iraq showed he had been right to oppose that war in the first place.

In an apparent reference to setting up an agenda for talks with Iran, Chirac said: “I believe that on the one hand that Iran and the six countries must first establish a schedule for negotiation, then must embark on negotiations. And during these negotiations, I suggest that on the one hand the six give up on referring the matter to the Security Council and that Iran should give up the enrichment of uranium for the duration of the negotiations.”

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani have been continuing discussions to find a face-saving solution for all sides that would allow diplomacy to proceed. One of the formulas under discussion would have the European Union countries begin the talks, and then the United States would join them once Iran suspended its programs.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on September 19 that all parties involved in the Iran nuclear issue should maintain diplomatic negotiations and dialogue, and promote a peaceful resolution. He said all sides should make the most of the opportunity provided by the negotiations between the European Union and Iran, which were making progress. Qin also called for all parties to show patience and calm, and maintain the momentum of diplomatic negotiations and dialogues.

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