- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

U.S. officials yesterday accused Iran of stalling negotiations and said the deadline has arrived for the country to halt nuclear production or face sanctions in the United Nations.

“We offered them two paths, negotiations or Security Council action,” Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told “Fox News Sunday” discussing the incentives offered to Iran if it gives up its nuclear ambitions. “The Iranians can choose, but the time to choose has come.”

Five weeks ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran had weeks, not months, to respond to the offer made by an international coalition including the United States, the European Union, China and Russia. Iranian officials so far have rejected public pressure to accept or reject the offer.

Though details of the offer have not been officially released, it is said to include economic incentives and the likely lifting of some sanctions against Iran.

“The Iranians need to understand that if they can’t answer this question clearly, there is another path available to us, and that is to work in the Security Council to increase pressure and action against the Iranian government,” Mr. Burns said.

Iran has a scheduled meeting with European leaders tomorrow. On Wednesday, Miss Rice will meet her counterparts in the European Union, China and Russia during the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg to discuss the North Korean issue.

“I think by then we’ll have a fairly good idea of whether or not the Iranians are serious,” Mr. Burns said. “Whether they’re going to try to filibuster and delay things for months. We won’t accept that. We have another option available to us, and we’ll travel down that road if we have to.”

In advance of the G-8 summit, Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said any talks without his country’s consent would threaten future negotiations.

“Any [G-8] summit decision on Iran — if premature and incomplete — could harm the current positive trend of negotiations,” Mr. Mottaki said. “The G-8 summit won’t be comprehensive without Iran’s participation and opinion.”

Mr. Mottaki also repeated his country’s earlier stated position that it would not respond to the offer until Aug. 22. European Union representatives have been pushing for at least a partial compromise before tomorrow’s meeting. “They need to respond to the ambiguities we have identified,” Mr. Mottaki told Agence France-Presse.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian nuclear envoy Ali Larijanai met in Brussels last week, but reportedly were unable to reach an agreement.

A Western diplomat told Reuters yesterday that Iran has banned a chief U.N. nuclear inspector from its country who was part of a team looking into the Iranian nuclear program. Belgian inspector Chris Charlier said Iran has not allowed him back into the country since April because of Iranian complaints about his work. The International Atomic Energy Agency has been investigating Iran’s nuclear program since 2003.

“It is very probable that Tehran is doing things in the nuclear field that to this day we have no clue about,” Mr. Charlier told Reuters.

During his appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Burns denied that the war in Iraq has hampered the administration’s ability to work with other nations on a solution to the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea.

“There is no argument in the real world today about what these two countries, Iran and North Korea, are trying to do,” Mr. Burns said.

“The Iranians have miscalculated. They thought that they could divide the United States from both our European allies and from Russia and China. But we’ve been able to craft a major and united coalition of all those countries,” Mr. Burns said.

“So I don’t agree at all that we’re somehow limited in what we can do and limited in our effectiveness because of the disagreements we had over WMD in Iraq.”

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