World powers, Arabs share concern on Iran nuclear program


The five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain — plus Germany held a two-hour meeting with eight Arab nations.

The Arab nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar of the Gulf Cooperation Council, plus Jordan, Iraq and Egypt received an update on efforts by leading world powers to apply pressure on Tehran.

One GCC nation, Oman, did not send an envoy to the meeting.

"All there expressed their concern about Iran’s nuclear policies and its regional ambitions," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after the meeting.

"All participants expressed support for the ongoing work of the UN Security Council, the (six powers) and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) regarding the Iranian nuclear file," she said.

"What really did come through here is that these are countries that have very deep interests in how this issue gets resolved, and they want to continue consultations with the P5-plus-1 on how this is all going to come out."

During talks at Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in November, Arab diplomats complained of a lack of communication with the so called P5-plus-one group of Russia, China, the United States, France, Britain and Germany, with regard to Iran’s nuclear aims.

Iran, a leading OPEC oil producer, denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and says its nuclear program aims to provide energy for its growing population when its reserves of fossil fuels run out.

Other countries, including many of Tehran’s neighbors, are worried about Iran’s increasing influence in the region and are have expressed concern about the prospect of a future nuclear-armed Iran.

Among the diplomats at the meeting in addition to Rice, were EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Germany and China were represented by their UN ambassadors, while France was represented by Gerard Araud, a top foreign ministry official.

Russia was represented by Moscow’s ambassador in Washington Sergei Kisliak, who has considerable experience in the area of Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

The meeting followed a dinner gathering late Monday with representatives from the Middle East quartet — United States, European Union, Russia, United Nations — with several Arab ministers.

"Iran’s nuclear weapons program is increasingly recognized as a threat to the whole region of the Middle East," Miliband told reporters after the dinner, adding that the program could "kick start another nuclear race in the region."

At the dinner, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia has no intention of approving new sanctions against Iran.

"It is in everyone’s interest that there would be no worsening of the situation in the area," Lavrov told reporters.

Lavrov said that the principles that led to the formation of the P5-plus-1 group were to support the work of the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

"We will clarify the principles that were agreed upon in the formation of the work on the Iran nuclear program … to support with all possible means via the Security Council, the UN and other channels the work of the IAEA," he said.

Lavrov did not attend Tuesday’s talks.

Meanwhile, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported over the weekend that Germany is seeking further sanctions to target Iran’s banking and transportation sectors.

The Europeans will try to reach agreement on extending sanctions against Tehran with Russia, China and the incoming US administration of Barack Obama that would not require a Security Council vote, added the report.

Der Spiegel said the goal was to provide Obama a means to pressure Iran in any future dialogue.

The UN Security Council has already adopted four resolutions — three of which included sanctions — requiring Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

Obama has said that his administration would engage in direct talks with Tehran, a move that would represent a break with three decades of US policy.

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