Pressure on Iran could end crisis
U.S. agreement to join negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program has led to an international agreement to resolve the crisis.
YIELDING to diplomatic pressure, the Bush administration has decided to join negotiations with Iran, leaving Tehran with little wiggle room to continue its nuclear program. The U.S. turnabout quickly led to an agreement with China, Russia and three Western European countries offering Iran a package of incentives to avoid U.N. Security Council sanctions.
The word "sanctions" was not mentioned in the announcement by Margaret Beckett, Britain's foreign secretary. However, she warned that "further steps would have to be taken in the Security Council" if Iran did not turn off its machines that produce enriched uranium. Although the agreement contains no deadline for Iran's response, Western diplomats said it would have weeks, but not months, to cooperate.
Iran had relied upon Russia and China, two major trading partners, to thwart proposals for Security Council sanctions. Iran also had support from Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who had proposed allowing it to continue uranium processing, but even he got in line to urge that Iran "seize the opportunity of talking to Washington."
Specific terms of the proposal by Security Council permanent members, the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, plus Germany, were not made public. The emphasis of the agreement is on incentives to reward Iran for abandoning its nuclear program.
What Iran describes as a nuclear energy program is a thinly veiled operation to produce nuclear weapons. Its announcement in April that it had enriched uranium for the first time sounded an international alarm.
America has no objection to Iran gaining access to modern light-water reactors for civilian nuclear power, with Russia and the West controlling access to the fuel. Iran's rejection of such a system makes clear its intention to produce nuclear weapons. Its rejection of a nuclear freeze as a precondition for talks to go forward is now off the table, as it should be.
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