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10 Sep 2004 12:55
The United States held talks with disarmament officials from major countries on Friday as it steps up pressure on Iran to renounce any move toward acquiring nuclear weapons, officials said.
Washington wants the backing of the Group of Eight nations for its attempts to have the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declare Iran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Such a vote by the IAEA board at its three-day meeting in Vienna, Austria, starting on Monday, could lead to United Nations Security Council sanctions.
The United States demands that Iran renounce uranium enrichment, which could be used to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran insists it only is interested in nuclear power, which can be created with lower levels of enrichment than the levels necessary for nuclear weapons.
Britain, France and Germany have signalled they don’t want the IAEA to vote on the US proposal before November to give diplomatic efforts more chance to work.
Russia has said it will continue to work with Iran on building its nuclear power programme, but says it will ensure that its cooperation cannot contribute to a nuclear weapons programme.
Russia’s position has been criticised by the United States.
Also attending the Geneva meeting are officials from the other G-8 countries: Italy, Japan and Canada.
Spearheading the US campaign and host of Friday’s meeting is Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who maintains Iran “has concealed a large-scale, covert nuclear weapons programme for over 18 years”.
He told the Hudson Institute, a private research group in Washington, DC, last month that the United States was “using every diplomatic tool at our disposal” to pressure Iran to halt any illicit activities.
This included US discussions in the IAEA and G-8 and separate talks with Russian, Chinese, British, French and German officials and others, Bolton said.
The Geneva gathering is a follow-up to an agreement for consultations on proliferation reached at the G-8 summit meeting in Sea Island, Georgia, in June.
The Korean peninsula also could be a prime topic for discussion at the Geneva meeting. The United States has been trying to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.
But North Korea has said that South Korea’s disclosures about a uranium-enrichment experiment there could lead to a “nuclear arms race” in Northeast Asia.
South Korea said last week that it conducted a secret enrichment experiment in 2000, and said on Thursday that it extracted a tiny amount of plutonium in a nuclear experiment in 1982.
The US ally acknowledged “differences” with the IAEA over its activities.
The UN agency is charged with verifying compliance with the nonproliferation treaty, which permits only peaceful uses of the atom.
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