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US Says Time For Iran Sanctions

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that Iran is simply employing another “stalling technique” with its latest offer for a French consortium overseeing Iranian uranium enrichment and that Iran is clearly not going to halt enrichment in any case. Dr. Rice said that it is therefore time for the Security Council to take up Chapter Seven sanctions against Iran. Addressing the issue during her Middle East tour, Rice said, “I think we have come to a time when the Iranians have to make their choice, and the international system has to act accordingly.” It has been over one month since the Security Council’s August 31 enrichment cessation deadline has passed.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remained ever defiant to such calls, as the United States has demanded a concrete decision from Iran by week’s end. Taking a swipe at the female American Secretary of State, Ahmadinejad told a crowd of supporters outside Teheran, “You are mistaken if you assume that the Iranian nation will stop for even a moment from the path toward using nuclear energy, due to your nagging.” While this has been Iran’s consistent answer to calls and demands for it to halt its uranium enrichment, one that the West has been reluctant to accept in search of a non-confrontational solution, it has also consistently followed up such bellicosity with requests for talks and negotiations. Wednesday was no different, as Ahmadinejad followed his terse remarks by saying “We are for talks. We can talk with each other and remove ambiguities. We have logic. We want talks to continue.”

But if Condoleezza Rice’s words are to be taken at face value – coupled with the French rejection of Iran’s bid for French oversight (through a company the Iranian regime owns shares in) and Javier Solana’s remarks that Iran is running out of time – then the West may finally be coming to the point where they do not “want talks to continue,” ultimately frustrated by the seemingly fruitless endeavor.

The United States and Europe appear closer to forcing the issue at the UN through the Security Council, where the Russian and Chinese ambassadors endorsed the August 31 deadline that has since been ignored. But the US and Europe harbor doubts about the resolve of the Russian and Chinese governments, be they signatories to the defied UNSC Resolution 1696 or not. This doubt was reinforced by Igor Ivanov, the head of the Russian government’s Security Council, when he stated that Russia believes the Iranian nuclear crisis should be resolved through talks. “Russia’s premise is that all issues related to the Iranian nuclear problem should be resolved at the negotiating table,” Ivanov said after meeting with Iranian nuclear chief, Ali Larijani. This position is clearly increasingly at odds with the United States and, increasingly, Europe as well.

The Russians have a vested interest in the Iranian nuclear program, as the cash-strapped country is contracted to complete the Bushehr nuclear facility on Iran’s southern Persian Gulf Coast for over US$1 billion. Not only is Russia building Iranian nuclear plants, they have also recently agreed to sell Iran missile systems to form a comprehensive ‘umbrella defense’ to protect their nuclear facilities – in addition to the Russian anti-aircraft missile systems already in place at Bushehr.

As the EU’s Javier Solana said yesterday of his talks with Iran’s Ali Larijani, “This dialogue I am maintaining cannot last forever, and it is up to Iranians now to decide whether its time has come to end.” With Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns stating that another ambiguous answer from Tehran will be interpreted as a ‘No,’ it appears it is also time for Russia to decide as well, with the US and Europe seemingly prepared to force a vote at the Security Council.