Iran, terrorism top UN discussion issues

Leaders from around the world hold a final day of meetings at the United Nations World Summit in New York on Friday, with Iran’s nuclear ambitions and condemnations of terrorism as top issues.

United States diplomats have been lobbying hard to take Iran before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions for its nuclear programme, which Washington and other Western nations believe is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.

However, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog agency, is expected to delay referring Iran to the Security Council when its 35-nation board of governors convenes on Monday.

Plans to immediately refer Tehran to the Security Council for sanctions are opposed by Russia and China, as well as non-aligned states supporting Iran’s claim to peaceful nuclear technology under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), diplomats said.

Three European foreign ministers on Thursday talked with Iranian officials at the summit in a bid to head off a showdown.

Britain’s Jack Straw, France’s Philippe Douste-Blazy and Germany’s Joschka Fischer met their Iranian counterpart and later conferred briefly with the Islamic Republic’s new president in a diplomatic push brokered by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

“We had a very thorough exchange of the different positions of the EU-3 [European Union Three] and the new government of Iran,” Straw said after the 80-minute session with Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Manouchehr Mottaki.

Douste-Blazy said the ministers had a “very frank discussion” in the first talks between Iran and the so-called EU-3 since a May 25 session in Geneva.

The ministers later sat down with Iran’s new President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who planned to unveil what Tehran called new proposals to resolve the stand-off in a speech at the summit on Saturday.

“We’re going to listen carefully to what the president has to say and we’ll take it from there,” Straw said after the meeting.

‘We prepared the ground’

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who also attended the meeting with Ahmadinejad along with Fischer, stressed there were no actual negotiations.

“We have only prepared the ground,” Solana said, wondering if it was possible to continue. “We have to wait until the [Saturday] speech.”

Douste-Blazy insisted the EU-3 strategy has always been to avoid Security Council involvement, but added that the next step will depend on how far Ahmadinejad goes in addressing the Europeans’ concerns.

Annan organised the meeting between Iran and the EU-3, which has been trying for nearly two years to wean Tehran off its suspected nuclear-arms ambitions with economic and security incentives.

On the margins of the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin also huddled with Ahmadinejad, but a Russian official present for the first half of the hour-long meeting said the two leaders did not discuss Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Iran.

Moscow has indicated it will not support hauling Iran before the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme.

Ahmadinejad on Wednesday lashed out at Western “interventionism” when he addressed the General Assembly, but did not mention the nuclear issue.

Ahmadinejad, however, has defended his country’s nuclear programme as purely peaceful.

Fight against terrorism

Meanwhile, Putin, speaking to the General Assembly, said collective international action is the best weapon to defeat terrorism.

He insisted that the UN and its Security Council “must remain the main centres for coordinating international cooperation in the fight against terrorism as the ideological successor of Nazism”.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani also made a desperate plea to confront the terrorist “forces of darkness” seeking to destabilise his country.

He spoke just hours after suicide bombers struck Baghdad for the second day, killing at least 23 people, after a devastating string of car bomb attacks left about 150 dead and several hundred more wounded.

Chinese leader Hu Jintao also urged the summit to establish a new “fair and effective” security order and step up cooperation in combating global terrorism.

The leader of the Asian communist giant made it clear that the UN should be “the core” of collective security efforts.

“Such a role can only be strengthened and must not in any way be weakened,” he said.

Hu added that the world “should work actively to establish and improve a multilateral trading system that is open, fair and non-discriminatory”.

Separately, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun urged Washington to restore diplomatic ties with North Korea, saying it is fundamental to ending Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons drive.

Roh told a reception of the New York-based Korea Society that he is optimistic about multilateral talks in Beijing aimed at ending Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the US could normalise ties with North Korea if Pyongyang makes a “strategic choice” to disband its nuclear-weapons arsenal. — AFP

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Gerard Aziakou
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