Thursday, September 14, 2006

Talking Heads

Speaking at press conference in Senegal on his way to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Cuba before heading to the annual gathering of the United Nations, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on September 14 that Iran was open to “new conditions” on the subject of his country’s nuclear program. “We are in favor of dialogue and negotiation and we believe that we can resolve the problems in a context of dialogue and of justice together,” he said, “I am announcing that we are available, we are ready for new conditions.” He declined, however, to say whether Iran was prepared to suspend uranium enrichment.

Back in Tehran, foreign ministry spokesperson Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said the US is “poisoning” the course of nuclear negotiations. “The US intends to poison the course of the negotiations through constant antagonism, although Iran has constantly stressed negotiations for realizing its nuclear rights," he said.

Meanwhile, a meeting between European Union foreign policy head Javier Solana and Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani set for September 14 was postponed, apparently because more work is needed before formal negotiations can begin. EU diplomats had said they would discuss a tentative offer by Larijani last weekend to consider temporarily halting enrichment of uranium. Solana's spokeswoman did say that senior aides to Solana and Larijani met in Geneva on Thursday.

While US Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice said that the canceling of the meeting demonstrated that Iran would likely not meet international demands to halt uranium enrichment, she also kept open the possibility of halting efforts at the UN Security Council to enact sanctions, provided of course that Iran complied with the demands. On a visit to Germany, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao commented that world powers should be careful about imposing sanctions on Iran because they could be counter-productive. Indeed, in comments to the press on September 14, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said, “If there were to be, on the part of one or two members of the Security Council, an absence of dialogue and a rise, on one side or the other, in the will for confrontation, the international community would split. If the international community were to split, Iran would continue.”

The US should be careful not to conflate the interests of other countries, particularly when it comes to pressing for sanctions on Iran. The more the US talks about sanctions, the more other countries that have a stake in Iran will become involved. One need only to look, for example, to the split in the European countries on how to proceed: the Spanish foreign minister has asserted that “for the moment, we should keep talking” and the Italian foreign minister has stated his support for “a real negotiation offer” by the EU.

1 comment:

bobnaiman said...

Re: "While US Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice said that the canceling of the meeting demonstrated that Iran would likely not meet international demands to halt uranium enrichment" -

From AP yesterday:

In a possible indication of snags in their talks, Solana and Larijani on Wednesday abruptly postponed plans to attend the meeting in Paris, downgrading it to the level of their aids. But a European official told the AP that there was ''nothing sinister'' about the move. ''There are details to be worked on and that's best done at the senior expert level,'' the official said.

- Top Iranian Envoy Praises Early EU Talks, Associated Press, September 14, 2006, Filed at 9:23 a.m. ET