Iran gets extended deadline to halt uranium enrichment

Publish date: September 22, 2006

During a week that put Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at centre stage during a United Nations General Assembly meeting, world powers on Thursday handed Tehran a new October deadline to cease enriching uranium, a senior European diplomat said.

US President George Bush, meanwhile issued protests and warned that “time is of the essence” in settling the nuclear showdown.

However, hopes of a snap breakthrough had already been dimmed when European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana announced he would not come, as expected, to New York City for meetings with Iranian negotiators traveling with Tehran’s delegation to the UN General Assembly meeting.

Iran had stridently skipped a UN Security Council imposed August 31st deadline to stop enriching uranium, making Tehran’s nuclear plans the hot topic at the General Assembly meeting.

The five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany and Italy, agreed to give European negotiators more time to convince Tehran stop enrichment before the council seeks sanctions under a UN resolution. The European diplomat said the new deadline was established in the hope that new talks between Solana and Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani would yield results.

Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, made his first visit to the United States – which was specially cleared by an agreement with the UN – a high profile, photo-op filled event by defending his nuclear plans, as well as remarks he recently made denying the holocaust, in a talk at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.

Washington cries foul
Bush, who has led the battle cry against Iran’s nuclear programme, again hinted that the United States had broad intelligence concerning the Iranian nuclear programme – an uncomfortable parallel to his accusations, based on fabricated classified documents, that Iraq was building the bomb.

“I’m not going to discuss with you our intelligence on the subject, but time is of the essence," he told CNN. Bush went on to accuse Iran of stalling, presumably to make further progress in its nuclear programme.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declined to confirm the new October deadline, Agencie France Presse reported, but warned that diplomacy could not stretch on indefinitely.

"Everyone wants to resolve this through negotiations and everyone wants to solve this thing quickly," she said in remarks at the UN.

"There is a really excellent opportunity for Iran to engage with the international community, if it will simply meet a condition (freezing uranium enrichment)."

According to a BBC poll covering 25 countries, the majority of global citizens want a diplomatic solution to the stand off.