- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 9, 2006

BERLIN — The United States expects a U.N. Security Council agreement on sanctions against Iran within weeks unless Tehran agrees to freeze uranium enrichment, a senior State Department official said yesterday.

Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns also dismissed suggestions of cracks in the six-nation coalition pushing Tehran to give up enrichment.

Speaking a day after those countries ended confidential discussions in Berlin, Mr. Burns said further talks were needed on how harshly to penalize Tehran for its refusal to freeze enrichment, as demanded by the Security Council. But he said a lot of progress had been made.

In Washington, former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami told a group of American Muslims that they should take the lead in condemning terrorist attacks like the one on September 11, as well the wave of “Islamophobia” and distorted images of Islam that followed the attacks.

“We Muslims should condemn these atrocities even more strongly,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

“Warmongers, those who kill and suppress and those who commit acts of terror, if they identify themselves with Islam,” they are lying, he said.

Mr. Khatami, president of Iran from 1997 to 2005, spoke at a dinner hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, as part of a three-day visit to Washington. He is the highest ranking Iranian official, current or former, to visit the United States since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The ex-president is scheduled to conclude his two-week, five-city American tour with a speech at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Boston tomorrow.

Outlining the U.S. view of the timetable on Iran in the coming weeks, Mr. Burns said the six nations would further consult by phone on Monday and hoped to present a unified approach on sanctions to their foreign ministers by the time the U.N. General Assembly opens Tuesday.

“It’s fair to say we have … a lot more work to do,” he told guests at an event hosted by the American Academy in Berlin. “But I believe we will be successful in passing the sanctions resolution shortly” in the Security Council, he added.

“The American view is that following these discussions on Monday and perhaps some others early next week, we should move this to the Security Council and draft a resolution” on sanctions, he said.

Thursday’s meeting in Berlin came amid efforts by key European nations to enlist world support in pressuring Iran to give up uranium enrichment.

While Iran has expressed a desire for negotiations, the six nations have signed off on a proposal that Iran suspend enrichment before talks begin. The six countries — Germany plus Security Council powers Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States — have offered Iran a package of economic, political and strategic rewards to comply with the demand.

But French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Thursday appeared to suggest that demand was negotiable, saying: “The question is to know at what moment this suspension takes place compared to negotiations.”

Mr. Burns dismissed suggestions of a split, saying all five permanent Security Council members insist negotiations should not start until Iran suspends enrichment.

“I have not heard from any government from this group that we should change the basic offer; that hasn’t changed,” he said, adding: “No one mentioned anything like this” during Thursday’s meeting.

“The Iranians are in a very tough position,” Mr. Burns said. “At first they thought, let’s divide the United States from the EU-3 and that didn’t succeed. The Iranians are obviously trying to divide Russia and China from the rest of us, and that hasn’t succeeded.”

Mr. Burns spoke on the eve of a crucial meeting between senior EU envoy Javier Solana and Ali Larijani, the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator. An Iranian official said the talks were set for Vienna, Austria.

The talks are considered a final attempt to find common ground to start negotiations between Iran and the six powers.

Staff writer David R. Sands contributed to this article from Washington.

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