Wednesday, September 24, 2008

US: planned session on Iran is off (after Moscow scraps meeting)

The international community won't be able to pressure Iran for details about its nuclear program after Moscow scrapped a meeting planned for later in the week at the UN, German Foreign Minister Steinmeier said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Tuesday, Sept. 23, that world powers would find it "difficult" to influence Tehran after Russia cancelled a ministers' meeting slated for Thursday.

"There is no question that without such a meeting, which we urgently need in the current situation, it will be more difficult to bring the necessary international pressure to bear," he told reporters.

"I hope and expect that this is not the end of the 3+3 Group's efforts," Steinmeier said, referring to attempts by Britain, France, Germany, the United States, China and Russia to convince Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

No Iranian fires to put out

The US State Department said Tuesday the planned ministerial-level session on Iran on the sidelines of the General Assembly was now off, after Moscow said it would not take part. Russian officials confirmed the meeting's cancellation.

"We do not see any fire that requires us to toss everything aside and meet to discuss Iran's nuclear program in the middle of a packed week at the United Nations General Assembly," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Russia's decision appeared to be a tit-for-tat move after the United States refused to take part in a Group of Eight meeting that would have included Russia, said Germany's foreign minister.

How to move forward

Relations between Washington and Moscow have been tense since the five-day Georgia war last month. The US has recently attempted to exclude Russia from several G8 conference calls and called for internationally isolating Moscow.

In his final speech at the General Assembly, US President George W. Bush accused Russia of having violated the UN charter with what his administration has called a premeditated invasion of Georgia, a former Soviet territory.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called on the US to declare how it intended to maintain relations with Russia.

"It would be very desirable for Washington to finally decide what it wants in its relations with Moscow," the foreign ministry said in a statement. "If it wants to punish Russia, this is one thing. If it agrees we have common interests ... that is another."
Iranian enrichment continues

While officials in Moscow and Washington mull their scope of their future relations, Steinmeier said "silence" between Russia and other world powers "does not solve any problems."

"The case of Iran shows even more that we must remain in talks, with Russia as well, and demonstrate the necessary pressure, the decisiveness and the resolve of the international community," he said.

Despite three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions, Iran continues to defy demands that it halt uranium enrichment -- a process the West and Israel fear is being used to make an atomic bomb.

Tehran insists that its nuclear energy program is entirely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the General Assembly on Tuesday that Tehran would pursue nuclear technology despite Western "bullying."


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