Thursday, January 19, 2006

Europe softens stance on Iran

January 19, 2006
LONDON: Britain and its European allies have backed away from threatening economic sanctions against Iran if the nation is referred to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program.

As Britain, France and Germany began drafting a resolution before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer Iran to the UN, a senior official at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said Britain favoured a gradual, sustained build-up to force Tehran to comply with its international obligations.

"We do not see this leading straight into sanctions," the official said.

"We see a gradual build-up of moves that will take place over time. We are not going to (the UN Security Council in) New York to introduce punitive sanctions against Iran. That is not our approach.

The Security Council has weight and authority on the issues."

"A country cannot ignore the calls and requirements of the Security Council without cost. It brings together major players acting in concert. It can issue political calls which will have weight."

British, French and German diplomats had begun drafting the referral resolution before the IAEA. Diplomats said the referral called on Iran to "extend full and prompt co-operation to the agency" and called for "additional transparency measures". But it made no reference to the threat of sanctions.

The softening of the European position seemed to be aimed at wooing Moscow and Beijing, which have strong commercial links with Iran and are deeply opposed to any measures that might harm them.

So nice to know where their priorities are.

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