R E G I O N: Tehran not an ‘immediate threat’
* ElBaradei urges world leaders to ‘give peace a chance’
* Bush and Sarkozy demand new nuclear sanctions
ROME: UN atomic chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Thursday that Iran does not currently pose an immediate threat as international tension over Tehran’s nuclear programme continued to rise.
“Iran does not constitute a certain and immediate threat for the international community,” ElBaradei said in an interview with Italian RAI television. The IAEA director called for international leaders to “give peace a chance,” underlining that no hidden radioactive substances or underground production sites had yet been found. However, he admitted: “Iran has not yet completely revealed all the aspects of its nuclear programme.”
Once again, ElBaradei called for dialogue, underling that a calendar was in place for inspections concerning the nature of Iran’s atomic programme. “If we do not obtain satisfying results in two or three months, only then will we be able to draw negative consequences,” said ElBaradei, in Italy for a general conference of the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency.
The French and US presidents stepped up demands for tough action over the nuclear standoff ahead of a meeting of the major powers in Washington on Friday to discuss the dispute. France’s Nicolas Sarkozy directly accused Iran of seeking a nuclear bomb and threw his weight behind calls for “stronger” UN sanctions which are to be discussed at the Washington talks.
US leader George W Bush said he hoped the Islamic Republic would bow to mounting global pressure and warned he was “not going to tolerate” a nuclear-armed Iran. Iran denies its uranium enrichment and other activities, which are the subject of UN sanctions, hide an attempt to develop a bomb. Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States are to meet in Washington on Friday to discuss a third package of tighter UN sanctions against Iran if it does not suspend its uranium enrichment.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are also to hold talks in Washington on the topic and diplomatic tensions are set to mount again next week when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits New York for the UN General Assembly. Sarkozy charged in a prime time television interview late Thursday that “Iran is trying to obtain an atomic bomb.”
“That is unacceptable and I tell the French people it is unacceptable.” He distanced himself from comments by Kouchner who warned that a war with Iran was possible and put the emphasis on a diplomatic offensive.
“How do we convince (Iran) to renounce this project? Just as the international community convinced North Korea and Libya to renounce theirs. Through discussion, through dialogue, through sanctions,” Sarkozy said. “If existing sanctions are not enough, I want stronger sanctions,” Sarkozy said, while repeating that Iran had a right to civilian nuclear technology.
The Iranian nuclear question “is an extremely difficult affair, but France does not want a war,” Sarkozy said, referring to Kouchner’s earlier comments. afp