UNITED NATIONS, (Reuters) – The United States and other major powers on Wednesday told Iran to prepare a “serious response” by Oct. 1 to demands it halt its nuclear program or risk the consequences.
The demand from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany came after U.S. President Barack Obama made his first speech to the U.N. General Assembly, urging leaders to stop blaming America and join him in confronting world issues including Iran’s nuclear plans. “We expect a serious response from Iran and will decide, in the context of our dual track approach, as a result of the meeting, on our next steps,” British Foreign Minister David Miliband said, reading a statement agreed by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said all sides agreed there could be consequences if Iran did not reply substantively when negotiators meet in Geneva next month.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in his own U.N. address, did not directly mention the nuclear issue. But the Iranian leader delivered his usual tough rhetoric on Israel, accusing it of “inhuman policies” in the Palestinian territories and of dominating world political and economic affairs.
U.S. and British officials in the assembly hall left at the time of Ahmadinejad’s comments about Israel. “It is disappointing that Mr. Ahmadinejad has once again chosen to espouse hateful, offensive and anti-Semitic rhetoric,” said U.S. mission spokesman Mark Kornblau.
Hours after protesters gathered outside Iran’s U.N. mission to accuse him of stealing the June election, Ahmadinejad hailed the “glorious and fully democratic” poll which “entrusted me once more with a large majority.”
Obama, in his first speech to the assembly since taking office in January, pledged U.S. global engagement but said the United States could not shoulder the responsibility alone. “Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone,” Obama said.
Obama, who will host a Group of 20 nations summit in Pittsburgh this week, also pledged to work with allies to strengthen financial regulation to “put an end to the greed, excess and abuse that led us into disaster.”
Obama was among the first major speakers at the gathering, which brings more than 100 heads of state and government together to air issues ranging from nuclear proliferation and international terrorism to climate change and global poverty.
Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, delivering his own inaugural U.N. address, took a swipe at the veto power wielded by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. He called the group the “terror council” and demanded it be scrapped. Obama has brought a new tone in U.S. foreign policy, stressing cooperation and consultation over the unilateralism of his predecessor, George W. Bush. But despite Obama’s global popularity, the new approach has delivered few concrete foreign policy achievements. U.S. officials were again disappointed this week when Israel and Palestinians rebuffed a new Obama push to restart peace talks in time for the U.N. meeting.
On Wednesday, however, Obama got some good news as both Russian and U.S. officials signaled the two sides may be moving closer on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program — one of his most pressing foreign policy priorities.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said sanctions could be inevitable — a significant hardening of Moscow’s position.
U.S. officials denied the Russian shift represented payback for Obama’s decision last week to scale back a Bush-era plan for European missile defense that had angered Moscow. But they acknowledged that the climate had changed. “It wasn’t that long ago where we had very divergent definitions of the threat and definitions of our strategic objectives vis-a-vis Iran. That seems to me to be a lot closer, if not almost together,” Michael McFaul, a White House adviser on Russia, said in New York.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi repeated his nation’s position that the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme should be resolved through dialogue, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
“Related parties ought to grasp the present advantageous opportunity, further push forward diplomatic efforts … (and) resume talks as soon as possible to find a comprehensive, long-term, appropriate resolution to the Iran nuclear issue,” it paraphrased him as saying at the United Nations.
“China has all along worked hard to urge and push talks, and is willing to continue working with the international community to play a constructive role in peacefully resolving the Iran nuclear issue through diplomatic negotiations,” he added.