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Sunday, January 10, 2010


Clinton says US still open to talks with Iran

China rules out new U.N. sanctions on Iran for now Reuters – Chinese ambassador to the U.N. Zhang Yesui speaks at United Nations headquarters, in New York, April …

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By ROBERT BURNS, AP National Security Writer Robert Burns, Ap National Security Writer – Mon Jan 4, 4:00 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday the Obama administration remains open to negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program, despite intransigence from Tehran.

Speaking to reporters at the State Department, Clinton said it is clear that administration efforts to engage Iran in talks to restrain its nuclear program in 2009 fell short. President Barack Obama had said that if Iran did not respond positively to his overtures by the start of 2010 he would move toward tougher sanctions.

Clinton said the administration is consulting with other nations about new sanctions, but she stressed that this does not mean the administration is abandoning its effort to start a dialogue with Iran.

There is no hard-and-fast deadline for Iran to respond, she said.

"We've avoided using the term `deadline' ourselves," she said. "That's not a term we have used because we want to keep the door to dialogue open. But we've also made it clear we can't continue to wait and we cannot continue to stand by when the Iranians themselves talk about increasing their production of highly enriched uranium" and taking other steps toward possible production of nuclear weapons.

Iran denies that its nuclear program is intended to make a nuclear bomb.

At the White House, deputy press secretary Bill Burton echoed Clinton's remarks, saying, "The door is of course still open for Iran to do the right thing and live up to its international obligations." He said the administration will "be going through the appropriate process to try to get them to the table."

Burton said presidential aides will meet this week to discuss next steps on Iran policy.

Clinton declined to discuss any details of prospective new sanctions against Iran.

"I can't appropriately comment on the details of those discussions now, except to say that our goal is to pressure the Iranian government, particularly the Revolutionary Guard elements, without contributing to the suffering of the ordinary Iraqis, who deserve better than what they currently are receiving."

Clinton also said the administration is appalled by Iranian government crackdowns on street protests.

The opposition movement began as a raw and angry voter backlash after last June's disputed presidential election, but has evolved into a possibly deeper and more ingrained fight against Iran's Islamic leaders.

At least eight people died in clashes between security forces and opposition supporters across Iran late last month, including a nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. It was the worst bloodshed since the height of the unrest immediately after the June re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"We are deeply disturbed by the mounting signs of ruthless repression that they are exercising against those who assemble and express viewpoints that are at variance with what the leadership of Iran wants to hear," Clinton said.

Iran issues 'ultimatum' to West over nuclear swap

Iran issues 'ultimatum' to West over nuclear swap AFP/File – Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki speaks during a press conference with Russian Energy Minister …

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by Aresu Eqbali Aresu Eqbali – Sat Jan 2, 2:20 pm ET

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran, already at risk of fresh UN sanctions over its atomic drive, gave the West an "ultimatum" on Saturday to accept a uranium swap deal or else it will produce its own nuclear fuel for a Tehran reactor.

"The international community has just one month left to decide" whether or not it will accept Iran's conditions, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted as saying on state television.

"This is an ultimatum."

Reacting to the statement, Germany, one of six world powers engaged in United Nations-backed talks to ensure Iran's nuclear programme is peaceful, said the ultimatum changed nothing.

The "situation has not changed," a German foreign ministry spokesman told AFP. "The proposal of the international community remains valid. Iran must seize this opportunity."

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, had proposed Iran ship most of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for processing into fuel for the research reactor.

Tehran rejected a December 31 deadline to accept this, risking new UN sanctions.

But it said on Tuesday it was ready to swap its low-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel abroad, while insisting the exchange happen in stages.

Iran is already under three sets of UN sanctions for refusing to abandon its sensitive programme of uranium enrichment, the process which produces nuclear fuel or, in highly extended form, the fissile core of an atomic bomb.

The United States and some other Western countries suspect Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear power programme.

The Islamic republic adamantly denies this, saying its nuclear programme is strictly for the production of energy.

World powers have been pushing Iran to accept the UN-brokered deal and are also mulling plans to impose fresh UN sanctions against it for dismissing the year-end deadline.

On Wednesday, US State Department spokesman Darby Holladay said the West would still focus on "dual-track policy" regarding the Islamic republic.

"Even as we leave the door open to engagement," world powers agree that Iran will pay the consequences if it does not meet its international nuclear obligations, Darby told AFP.

The UN Security Council's five permanent members -- the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain -- plus Germany are "in the process of considering next steps consistent with our dual-track policy," he said.

A UN diplomatic source in New York has said preliminary work on drafting a sanctions resolution was likely to begin in mid-January.

Iran's defiant "ultimatum" comes as the country faces its worst domestic crisis whereby protesters against Ahmadinejad's June re-election have been harshly confronted by the authorities.

The Washington Post said on Wednesday the United States was weighing targeted sanctions against members of Tehran's government as it hardens its line towards Iran after bloody crackdowns on protests.

But Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told Corriere della Sera newspaper on Saturday that Europe must not isolate Iran over human rights, stressing Tehran's role in negotiating world conflicts.

"We must not burn every bridge (with Iran) because Iran is a key figure for the Afghan crisis, for the crisis in the Middle East and over the very sensitive nuclear question", Frattini said.

"We must act so that Iran has a positive influence (on all these issues), so that it is a strength, it is respected, and not a concern", Frattini said. "Iran has the right to be a civil nuclear power, not a military one".


China dismisses UN Security Council debate on Iran sanctions

Associated Press - Jan 05, 2010

China does not plan to hold debates on more sanctions on Iran's nuclear program during its Security Council presidency this month, despite US demands for tougher sanctions, the Chinese ambassador to the UN said on Tuesday.

Ambassador Zhang Yesui told reporters Tuesday "this is not the right time or moment for sanctions" and that diplomats need "more time and patience" to try to bridge differences.

He said his January agenda will focus on Afghanistan, Somalia, Nepal, Ivory Coast, Kosovo, Sudan and the Middle East.

The Obama administration and its international partners had imposed an end-of-2009 deadline for Teheran to accept a UN-drafted deal to swap most of its enriched uranium for nuclear fuel. Iran dismissed the deadline.

Iran said Tuesday it welcomed US comments and that there was no hard-and-fast deadline for starting nuclear dialogue.

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