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U.S. chides allies for trade deals with Tehran
America’s allies must do more to cut commercial and energy ties with Iran if the international campaign to halt Tehran’s nuclear-weapons programs is to succeed, a top State Department official said yesterday.
R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, said the U.S.-led drive to sanction Iran’s economy through the United Nations is being undercut when allies in Europe, Turkey, India, Japan and South Korea continue to make lucrative trade deals and even offer credits to businesses trading with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“We have paid the price. It is time for our allies to pay the price as well,” he said, speaking at a gathering of scholars, policy analysts and writers at the headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Iranian nuclear officials yesterday began two days of talks with representatives from the Vienna, Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear monitoring watchdog, in Tehran to discuss the state of Iran’s nuclear programs. An IAEA report due out in the next couple of weeks on Iran’s cooperation could prove crucial in the debate over whether new sanctions would be imposed.
France yesterday said it was already considering new sanctions against Iran, and U.S. officials said that they would reject any Iranian effort to draw out the talks or stop short of a full suspension of nuclear activities.
Among them: EU members Germany and Austria, as well as India, which just signed a major nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States that Mr. Burns had a central role in negotiating, and Turkey.
Mr. Burns said the United States had not insisted on a “quid pro quo” with India to give up its lucrative oil trade or pipeline projects with Iran. But he said the United States was forcefully telling India and Iran’s other trading partners that Tehran does not represent a good investment or credit risk with a package of U.N. sanctions hanging over its economy.
“If countries around the world want diplomacy to be the way to resolve problems with Iran, then there has to be a harder-edged diplomacy. There has to be some teeth,” he said.
But the lure of Iran’s vast oil and gas reserves remains potent.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today begins his first official visit to neighboring Azerbaijan, which has cultivated close ties with Washington.
Among the items on the bilateral agenda are deals to cooperate on energy and transportation. Mr. Ahmadinejad is also expected to press Azerbaijan officials for pledges that their country would not be used as a staging ground for a possible U.S.-led military attack on Iran.
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