NEW YORK (AFP) – Top foreign ministry officials of the five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council and Germany are to meet to plot long-term strategy on how to tackle the Iranian nuclear crisis.
Participants at the meeting, to be held at Britain’s UN mission, will be US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak and foreign ministry political directors John Sawers of Britain, Stanislas de Laboulaye of France, Zhang Yan of China and Michael Schaefer of Germany, officials said.
Germany is one of three European powers — along with France and Britain — which have pursued three years of inconclusive negotiations to coax Tehran into renouncing plans to seek nuclear weapons in exchange for economic incentives.
The high-level meeting comes as the 15-member Security Council is reporting progress in efforts to agree a revised Franco-British draft urging Iran to comply with demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it restore international confidence in the peaceful nature of its atomic program.
The text aims to reinforce the IAEA demands, including immediate suspension of all uranium enrichment activities and resumption of implementation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)’s Additional Protocol that allows for wider inspections of a country’s nuclear facilities.
France and Britain hope that their draft can be adopted by the full Council next week.
In announcing the six-nation meeting, a US State Department official said Thursday that the participants would discuss the Franco-Britsh draft, but added: “I wouldn’t be surprised if they talked about the broader issue of Iran’s nuclear program.”
US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said Friday that the New York meeting “will basically look at the longer range”, a reference to future steps the international community might take if Iran continues to defy the IAEA.
His Chinese counterpart Wang Guangya said Friday that the meeting aimed to “consider the next step of activities by the IAEA”.
Tehran rejects Western charges that it is trying to acquire nuclear weapons and insists it has a right as a signatory to the NPT to conduct uranium enrichment.
Western powers see adoption of the Franco-British non-binding statement as the first step in a graduated response from the Security Council that could ultimately lead to sanctions against Tehran if it refuses to cooperate.
But Russia and China, which have close economic and energy ties with Tehran, are cool to sanctions and insist on the IAEA retaining the lead role in handling the issue.
Wang said Friday that Tehran should be given up to six weeks to comply with the IAEA demands rather than the 14 days proposed by France and Britain in their draft.
Meanwhile Iran remained defiant Saturday.
“There is no reason for us to accept the suspension of our research activities nor to renounce our rights which conform with international rulings,” said Iranian government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham at his weekly press conference.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told the student news agency, ISNA, that “if the Security Council asks us something that does not include our rights, it will be unacceptable for us.