The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Big powers disagree, Iran seeks talks

Moscow, Jan. 17 (Reuters): Russia and China made clear today they did not favour UN sanctions to induce Iran to scale back its nuclear programme, and Tehran urged the EU to return to the negotiating table.

A senior British official dismissed as “vacuous” the Iranian offer, contained in a letter from Javad Vaeedi, deputy head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Tehran should first halt all uranium enrichment work.

“Talks presuppose an obligation. The Iranian obligation was to stick to the moratorium,” Lavrov said. “Now Iran (has departed from) the moratorium on scientific research.”

Britain, France and Germany called off the talks last week after Tehran resumed uranium enrichment research, deepening western suspicions that it is bent on acquiring the bomb.

Washington and its EU allies say it is time the UN nuclear watchdog agency sent Iran’s case to the UN Security Council, which could eventually decide to impose sanctions on Iran.

A senior Iranian official said Tehran’s decision to resume nuclear fuel research was legal and “irreversible”.

Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, Iranian representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), also told the students news agency ISNA that he would meet the agency’s chief Mohamed ElBaradei to discuss Iran's plans. An IAEA spokesman could not confirm a meeting was planned.

Soltaniyeh reiterated Iran’s threat to halt snap IAEA inspections of its nuclear sites if its case goes to the Security Council. The senior British official said referral to the council would not automatically lead to punitive measures.

“We don’t see this leading straight into sanctions,” the official said under condition he not be named. “We want to build gradual, sustained pressure over time. We are not going to New York to impose punitive economic sanctions.”

Lavrov also said talk of sanctions was premature.

“The question of sanctions against Iran puts the cart before the horse. Sanctions are in no way the best, or the only, way to solve the problem,” he said. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Beijing favoured diplomacy, urging all parties to “keep patient and make utmost efforts to resume the negotiations between the EU3 and Iran”.

Germany earlier said council members remained at odds on the Iranian nuclear issue after yesterday’s talks in London among the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. However, participants did agree to call an emergency meeting of the IAEA board on February 2.

An Iranian source in Vienna said Iran had written to the EU trio proposing that talks resume immediately and saying Tehran was ready to “remove existing ambiguities regarding its peaceful nuclear programme through talks and negotiations”.

Any Security Council action would need the consent of its five permanent members, including Russia and China, both wary of jeopardising their major economic interests in Iran.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan said: “We hope the Iranian side can cooperate with the efforts by the international community to restart the diplomatic negotiations.” China gets about 12 percent of its oil imports from Iran.

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