UN's Annan urges Iran to drop aggressive posture
United Nations, May 11: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged Iran to drop its blunt rejection of Western overtures on its nuclear program, now subject to a new set of incentives and punishments.
Annan spoke a day after the United States slowed its drive for UN Security Council action and agreed to let Europeans devise a package of benefits to induce Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions and sanctions if it does not.
''It is important that the Iranians ... back away from this aggressive posture and be open to discussions,'' Annan told reporters yesterday after his monthly lunch with the 15 Security Council ambassadors.
''What is important here is that everybody seems to realize that we need to intensify diplomatic efforts and find a solution,'' he said. ''I hope everyone will reduce the level of the rhetoric on this issue.'' In Jakarta, Indonesia, yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Western concerns on Tehran's nuclear program were ''a big lie'' since they themselves tested ''new brands of weapons of destruction every day.'' Annan said he hoped that once the package is put together ''the Iranians and the international community will be able to come to a clear understanding.'' He said Iran has a responsibility ''to assure the world that their intention is peaceful.'' Britain, France and Germany are preparing energy and trade incentives if Iran agrees to resume negotiations and suspend uranium enrichment, which Tehran says is for peaceful nuclear energy but the West suspects is a cover for bomb making.
FINISH BY MONDAY?
The Europeans are to complete the package by Monday. Then senior foreign ministry officials from major powers meet in London at the end of the week to review it.
Consequently, there may not be a decision on a draft UN resolution for about two weeks, although U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters work would continue on ''various aspects of the resolution.'' The draft resolution would order Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment efforts under the legally binding Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Russia and China opposed the measure, which they fear would lay the ground for more forceful action against Tehran.
There was no agreement on the resolution despite meetings in New York on Monday and Tuesday among foreign ministers from Germany and the five veto-holding Security Council nations -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.
The new strategy was then devised in hopes of bringing Russia and China on board, which US Ambassador John Bolton said was aimed at getting Council unity.
''Based on whether the Iranians accept the package of incentives or not, that will tell us what we do here,'' Bolton said.
Diplomats expected rough negotiations.
One senior council envoy, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in New York repeatedly referred to comments by US Vice President Dick Cheney, who week accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of backsliding on democracy and using energy reserves to ''blackmail'' Moscow's neighbors.
Yesterday Moscow's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin was pleased that diplomacy was being tried again. ''The mood has changed completely,'' he said. ''Now there is a discussion of real strategy of dealing with Iran.
''So the resolution is now becoming what we have been saying all along it should be: a means for achieving a political and diplomatic settlement of the issue.
''The bottom line is that the ... Iran nuclear program should remain peaceful,'' Churkin said. ''As long as we stick to it, good things can happen.''