Washington: The US and its partners on 26 March pushed for a peaceful end to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programmes, as Washington warned Tehran against turning “a blind eye” to its obligations.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino stressed that “there is no intention of going to war with Iran” even as she scolded the Islamic republic for saying it would curtail its cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog agency.
“We would urge them not to go down that road,” Perino told reporters after Tehran announced that step in retaliation after the UN Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to widen sanctions on Iran over its atomic ambitions.
The measures, agreed after days of behind-the-scenes bargaining, block all Iranian arms exports and freeze the overseas assets of 28 additional officials and institutions linked to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
The council’s action also restricts financial aid or loans to Tehran, and sets a fresh 60-day deadline for Iran to comply with UN demands to freeze uranium enrichment and reprocessing or face “further appropriate measures”.
The council’s five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the US -- plus Germany have been pressing Iran to return to talks aimed at allaying fears it seeks to develop atomic weapons.
“We are united. Iran should suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities,” said Perino, who chided Tehran for refusing to do so and for curbing cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“The Iranian regime, rather than comply with its UN Security Council obligations, is turning a blind eye toward it and it’s unfortunate for the (Iranian) people,” she said.
From Brussels, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana told the Islamic republic’s lead negotiator, Ali Larijani, that the international community sought a peaceful settlement to the dispute.
Larijani for his part stressed Iran’s wish also to resolve the problem through negotiations, while adding that sanctions were unacceptable, “Solana spokeswoman Cristina Gallach told AFP.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao said in a joint declaration that the volatile issue “should be resolved exclusively in a peaceful way, through negotiations”.
“Russia and China will make every effort to ensure the rapid start of negotiations to find a long-term, all-encompassing and mutually acceptable resolution to the Iranian nuclear problemme,” the declaration said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Iran Sunday to accept an offer of new talks, stressing: “If Iran is prepared to return to the fold of the international community we are prepared to make very generous offers to them.”
And Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kisliak said the sanctions were “reversible” and emphasized “it is still possible to resolve the Iranian question through political means,” according to the Itar-Tass news agency.
Asked about a parallel dispute between London and Tehran over 15 British sailors Iran seized last week, Perino replied: “We share the same concern and the outrage that (British) Prime Minister (Tony) Blair has.
“You can be assured that we are in close contact with our British allies. We strongly support the message that Tony Blair sent yesterday, the strong message of the hostage-taking being wrong and unjustified.
It was some of the toughest language yet from the White House on the sailors’ fate, which Washington has declined to link to the nuclear dispute.
After the Council approved the new sanctions, a Tehran government spokesman said it would no longer inform the nuclear watchdog of new installations until six months before they are brought into service.
It was not immediately clear how this would affect attempts to monitor work on a plant at Natanz in central Iran. Iran is building in Natanz an industrial-scale plant to make enriched uranium, which can be used for nuclear fuel or as atom bomb material.
Diplomats said Iran’s decision to stop giving immediate notification of its nuclear plant building plans means Tehran could now work on new strategic sites without informing the IAEA, which could help Iranian authorities to hide facilities from possible military air strikes.
The US, which charges that Iran’s nuclear energy programme is a cover for secretly developing nuclear weapons, has not ruled out military action.