Nuclear negotiators must remain patient
China Daily Updated: 2006-01-20 06:29
Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, who is currently touring Africa, spoke to his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki over the phone on Wednesday.
This important conversation was part of Chinese efforts to come up with a peaceful settlement to the matter of Iran's nuclear ambitions. Such an outcome is of course in the interests of all concerned.
On Monday, representatives from Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany sent a clear message. Iran should return to full suspension of its nuclear programme.
All of the participants in the London meeting were seriously concerned about Iranian moves to restart uranium enrichment activities.
The international consensus is unmistakable and important.
Iran agreed to a suspension in 2004 as part of an agreement with Britain, France and Germany.
Last week, Iran removed United Nations seals on its uranium enrichment programme at the Natanz plant.
But it is too early to say diplomacy has failed. Negotiations should be given another chance so that a settlement can be found that is meaningful to all sides.
The meeting in the British capital decided to leave the decision as to whether or not Iran is referred to the UN Security Council to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It called for an extraordinary meeting of the UN's nuclear watchdog on February 2 and 3, when the 35 board nations are expected to vote on the matter.
All parties are feeling the strain of the ticking clock.
It has been reported that Britain, France and Germany have begun drafting a resolution for consideration by the board that calls on Mohammed ElBaradei, the international agency's director, to send a report to the Security Council.
Had the matter already been referred to the Security Council, Iran's nuclear programme and deliberate punitive measures would have been examined.
Such action should not be taken in a hurry, which would eat away at opportunities for diplomacy.
Iran and the three European countries hammered out a deal in 2004. They should therefore fulfil the commitments they made under the agreement.
Negotiations remain the best option, as sanctions will muddy the waters.
Patience, perseverance and principles are needed so as to revive talks.
China shares the same goals as the rest of the world, in terms of limiting nuclear proliferation.
The crux of the matter is encouraging Iran to come back to negotiations with the European Union.
The clear message from the London meeting demonstrates a sense of urgency and gravity. Iran should respond to the diplomatic efforts of the international community.
On Tuesday Iran proposed a resumption of nuclear talks with European negotiators.
Javad Vaeedi, deputy head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, stressed Iran's determination to "continue its full co-operation" with the IAEA.
Iran's proposal declared the country was ready to "remove existing ambiguities regarding its peaceful nuclear programme through talks and negotiations."
The international community remains divided over how to settle the question of Iran's nuclear programmes. The possibility of the legitimate and peaceful use of nuclear energy in Iran still splits the nations involved.
Nevertheless, the joint declaration that launched negotiations on November 14, 2004 was unequivocally drafted. It says a mutually acceptable agreement would not only provide objective guarantees Iran's nuclear programme is "exclusively for peaceful purposes" but also would "equally provide firm commitments on security issues."
Referring the matter to the Security Council may complicate the situation. Iran and European negotiators must continue talks in a constructive manner.
(China Daily 01/20/2006 page4)