Talks over more Iran sanctions postponed

September 25th, 2008 - 11:52 am ICT by IANS  

New York/Moscow, Sep 25 (DPA) A meeting of world powers this week to explore slapping fresh sanctions on Iran over its nuclear activities has been cancelled, top diplomats have said.Russia was the first to pull out, citing Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s busy schedule on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice later agreed that more time was needed before the senior-level meeting, but European foreign ministers disagreed.

“I happen to agree with the Russians that the time is not right for a ministers meeting,” Rice said told CNBC television.

“All of the ministers here have a lot of other things to do. Let’s wait and do it when the meeting is prepared.”

The five permanent members of the Security Council - China, Britain, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany - were to have met Friday over Iran’s refusal to comply with Security Council demands to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to build nuclear weapons.

An official in the Russian delegation to the United Nations said Lavrov could not attend the meeting due to “the intensity of his schedule.”

Rice and Lavrov were to hold a separate meeting Wednesday as their two countries remain in a diplomatic confrontation over Moscow’s invasion of Georgia last month.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, however, said calling off the meeting sent the “wrong” signal to Tehran, which has continued to enrich uranium despite three earlier rounds of limited Security Council sanctions.

Steinmeier noted that Russia’s cancellation came after the United States pulled out of a traditional meeting of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrial countries that usually takes place during the annual summit of world leaders in New York to mark the opening of the General Assembly.

Britain, France and the United States have been at odds with Russia over last month’s invasion of Georgia, a dispute the White House has acknowledged could complicate the united effort to confront Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

Rice, in a speech last week, said the West must stand up to Russian aggression against its neighbours and former Soviet states.

Western countries suspect Iran is seeking the capability to develop nuclear weapons, while Tehran maintains its programme is solely for producing peaceful nuclear energy.

The United States and France have said they will pursue more Security Council sanctions on Iran after the UN nuclear monitoring agency called the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said last week that Iran has expanded its enrichment process and continues to dodge questions about the nature of its nuclear work.

Lower level diplomats from the six countries met last week in Washington to map out this week’s meeting that has now been cancelled.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he still expected lower level meetings to take place in the coming days and held out hope that the talks between ministers had been merely “delayed,” not cancelled.

He said the situation was “important, grave, serious” enough to warrant further action.

Steinmeier said he was hopeful sanctions could be taken up again in “some months,” but added that the issue cannot be addressed without the Russians.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York Tuesday defended his country’s right to civilian nuclear technology and slammed the Security Council for thinking “they own the world.”

He added that Iran was prepared to endure another round of sanctions.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it saw no need for an emergency session on Iran.

“We don’t see the need to drop everything in an extremely busy week of the UN General Assembly and urgently meet for talks on the Iranian nuclear programme,” spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website Wednesday.

Nesterenko said there were more urgent problems on the UN agenda. He cited Afghanistan and Pakistan and accused the West of avoiding those discussions.

Political analysts suggested Moscow’s pullout from the talks on Iran’s nuclear programme appeared partly in anger over Western condemnation of its actions in the war with Georgia last month.

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