R E G I O N: US backs diplomacy over action against Iran: Straw
LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said late on Monday, after talks with US secretary of state nominee Condoleezza Rice, that top officials in Washington support the use of diplomacy over military action in dealings with Iran.
“The issue of a military option simply wasn’t raised today,” Straw told the BBC after his meeting in Washington with Rice.
US Vice President Dick Cheney, who has called Iran’s controversial nuclear ambitions one of Washington’s main concerns, said that “he backs a diplomatic approach to Iran”, Straw recalled.
He said the difficulty was to decide how to work with Iran, a country which is already in breach of its international obligations, and how to make sure that its future activities are “entirely for peaceful purposes and (that) there’s no intention, no possibility, that it’s being used for nuclear weapons purposes.”
The British foreign secretary has reportedly produced a hefty dossier to argue London’s case for a “negotiated solution” rather than military action to thwart Tehran’s suspected ambitions to produce nuclear weapons. The dossier, reports say, calls a peaceful solution led by Britain, France and Germany “in the best interests of Iran and the international community,” while referring to “safeguarding Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology”.
The BBC reported that tensions were running high between London and Washington, staunch allies during the Iraq war and the war on terrorism, over the Iran issue. Britain, France and Germany have spearheaded efforts to get Iran to halt its sensitive nuclear work, including uranium enrichment, while the United States has advocated taking a hard line against what it sees as deception by the Islamic republic.
The perception that Washington is embarking on a course of confrontation with Iran has grown since The New Yorker magazine reported last week that US commandos have been operating inside Iran since mid-2004, secretly scouting targets for possible air strikes.
Earlier, a senior American commander overseeing efforts to capture Taliban and Al Qaeda remnants in Afghanistan said on Monday his mission could be harmed by any instability in neighbouring Iran. Maj Gen Eric Olson told the news agency that the 18,000 mainly American soldiers under his command also were working to intercept spies or militants entering the country from the west, which includes Iran.
“I think it is in Afghanistan’s interest to see stability in Iran and anything that is destabilising or causes turmoil in Iran, especially close to the border, would not be good for Afghanistan and would not be good for my mission,’’ Olson told the news agency after making a presentation to Kabul-based diplomats at the main US base north of Kabul. Olson told the diplomats that Taliban militants had been so weakened by US operations and the advances of President Hamid Karzai’s government that his forces would soon spend more time on reconstruction than on pursuing militants.
Military planners said a national reconciliation programme, to be announced soon by Karzai, already had persuaded about 70 “mid-level’’ commanders from the Taliban and renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar willing to give up the fight.
The militants’ failure to disrupt Afghanistan’s October presidential election showed “that their capabilities are very limited,’’ Capt Heidi Urben told diplomats from countries including Pakistan, Germany and France. “The intent is starting to fade away as well.’ In response to a media report last week, Olson said he knew of no US spying missions in Iran. agencies