- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2006

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday warned President Bush not to “escalate” tensions over Iran’s nuclear ambitions because the world wants to “find a way out of this crisis.”

“We need to be able to resolve it, and I hope there will be no steps taken to escalate this approach,” Mr. Annan told the president at the end of a meeting in the Oval Office.

Mr. Bush did not publicly mention Iran, although he discussed the topic with Mr. Annan before reporters were ushered in at the conclusion of the meeting.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan later railed against Iran without escalating the administration’s rhetoric.

“Iran has shown that they can’t be trusted with nuclear technology because they have hidden their activities for some two decades,” he said. “They failed to comply with their international obligations.”

The meeting came as Iran announced that it was postponing a planned resumption of negotiations with Russia and also would restart its uranium enrichment.

The Moscow talks, which had been designed to assuage world concerns about the Islamic republic’s intentions by having Russia enrich uranium for Tehran, had been scheduled to resume Thursday.

“We support the proposal that was offered by Russia,” Mr. McClellan said. “But what you see coming from the regime is continued defiance of the world, a continued disregard for their international obligations and a continued thumbing of their nose to what the world has demanded.”

Mr. Annan later told CNN that no one wants to see a “military escalation in the region. And Iran should cooperate and cooperate fully. And I have urged them publicly to freeze the nuclear program.”

The remarks came on the same day that the London Daily Telegraph reported that the Pentagon was stepping up contingency planning for a military assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Mr. Bush has repeatedly refused to rule out a military option, although he emphasizes that diplomacy should be given a chance to work.

But in an interview with USA Today, published yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated his defiance at the threat of international sanctions.

“I believe those who want to impose limitations on us will lose more than us,” he said. “The people of Iran have stood on their own two feet throughout history and, despite the bad intentions of their adversaries, have been able to move forward.”

Iran announced yesterday on its state-run television that it has begun uranium enrichment. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament’s foreign relations committee, said inspectors from the Vienna, Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency were present.

Two diplomats in Europe told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity that uranium-enrichment activities had begun, with one specifying that it occurred at the Natanz plant in central Iran.

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