Iran 'not expected to meet uranium deadline'

Last updated at 09:32 19 April 2006

Britain does not expect that Iran will comply with demands to cease uranium enrichment within a 30-day deadline set by the United Nations Security Council, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw acknowledged today.

But he said he believed the Tehran regime was feeling the pressure of international condemnation of its nuclear ambitions, despite defiant statements by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The five permanent members of the Security Council - Britain, France, Russia, China and the United States - met, along with Germany, in Moscow yesterday to discuss possible sanctions if Iran does not comply, but failed to reach agreement.

But Mr Straw insisted that the international community remains united in its determination to prevent Tehran from developing a military nuclear capability.

He rejected suggestions that there was a split within Security Council members over the USA's willingness to contemplate military action as a last resort, something which he said was only a "theoretical" possibility.

Speaking during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Mr Straw said he expected the issue to return to the Security Council after the April 28 deadline has passed.

"We are working on the basis that Iran will not meet the proposals from the Security Council within the 30-day deadline," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Negotiating with the Iranians takes a kind of rondo form, so you never quite know what is going to happen.

"But what is most likely to happen is that the matter will move back to the Security Council and there will then be discussions about the next steps which the international community will take.

"They have responded more than I think people see. For example, they were threatening total withdrawal form the operation of the inspectors. That hasn't actually happened.

"I think Iran is feeling some of the pressure, as well as its president making belligerent statements.

"What we will wait for here is the report from Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to see whether he says about Iran's compliance or non-compliance with the obligations imposed on it by the IAEA, and then consider the next steps that we will take."

Tehran has attempted to defy international concern over its atomic programme, which Mr Ahmadinejad insists is intended only for the civil generation of nuclear energy.

But Mr Straw said: "At each stage they have calculated they could split the international community. At each stage, though, they have just ended up with the international community more united in its concern to ensure full compliance by the Iranians.

"That is of great concern to many more sensible Iranians, and I note the recent remarks by former president (Hashemi) Rafsanjani in that regard."

Mr Straw rejected suggestions that the international community was split over the issue of military action.

"I have always acknowledged that the US Government formally is in a different position from the European governments on this theoretical issue of the use of force," he said.

"But in practice both the Americans and Europeans, the Russians and Chinese are committed to finding a diplomatic solution to this issue."

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