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EU, IAEA: Reset Iran’s Nuclear Stopwatch

As the UN General Assembly gets under way this week, new signs of the successful Iranian separation of European allies from the United States regarding the Iranian nuclear crisis are clear, as cracks in any unity are exploited to their fullest. Not unexpectedly, IAEA director Mohammed ElBaradei voiced strong support for the European hints at scrapping the UN Security Council resolution and its calls for sanctions. Iran refused to abide by the UNSC demands of ceasing enrichment operations by August 31, a deadline that has passed without action or consequence.

Once again frustrating those who believe Iran is conducting nuclear research in pursuit of nuclear weapons, IAEA head Mohammed ElBaradei has called for a return to square one with Iran, stating that negotiation with Iran is ‘long overdue’. Seemingly dismissing Iranian intransigence since the IAEA became directly involved in the investigation into the Iranian nuclear program, ElBaradei expressed hope that “conditions will be created to engage in a long overdue negotiation that aims to achieve a comprehensive settlement” between “Iran and its European and other partners.” Talks between Iran and various representatives of ‘its European’ partners have occurred at various times since the IAEA began to develop its current Iranian dossier in 2003.

French President Jacques Chirac suggested that there be no sanctions on Iran, regardless of the UN Security Council resolution that included French support. Seemingly handing Iran a chronological victory, Chirac suggested that the Security Council resolution be scrapped and both sides return to square one. Said Chirac, “We must, on the one hand, together, Iran and the six countries, meet and set an agenda for negotiations then start negotiations. Then, during these negotiations I suggest that the six renounce seizing the UN Security Council and Iran renounces uranium enrichment.” Precisely what Mr. Chirac meant by ‘seizing’ the UN Security Council remains open to vague interpretation, but what is clear is yet another example of European distancing from America at the hands of Iran’s wedge formation.

Seemingly remiss to acknowledge the broad shift away from the UNSC resolution, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that she believes Russia and China will support sanctions on Iran, as called for by the resolution. Said Secretary Rice, “We had a deal, and the deal was the following, and Iran understood that: If Iran was prepared to suspend its uranium enrichment and negotiate we were prepared to go down that road. And the United States prepared to go to the table for the first time in more than two decades. If Iran did not, then the Security Council would have to act.” But there are no indications that anyone in the Security Council intends to move forward with sanctions except for the United States. Russia and China remain opposed to sanctions, having yet to assert their implementation.

While acknowledging that she hopes the sporadic Iranian talks with the EU’s Javier Solana will end with an Iranian agreement to halt its enrichment program, she noted that the Security Council resolution remains in place and that both the UN and the Security Council faces a ‘credibility issue’ if sanctions are not sought against Iran as a consequence for thumbing their nose at the UNSC demands.

As his date on the world stage at the UN General Assembly approaches, Iranian President Ahmadinejad declared that he and Iran have ‘clear ideas’ for better management of global affairs, criticizing the UN for not taking action with affairs other than Iran’s nuclear crisis. Said Ahmadinejad, the “Iran (nuclear) issue is not that important as to deserve so much hype.”

It is, however, important enough for Iran to re-assign its Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs, Alireza Sheikh-Attar, to become the Iranian ambassador to Brussels, the home of the European Union’s headquarters and leadership which appears eager to return to square one with Iran, turning back the Iranian nuclear stopwatch three years.

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