M A I N   N E W S

Give diplomacy time on Iran issue: PM
Chances of breakthrough between Iran and EU3
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 6
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today told Parliament that discussions were on between Iran and Russia on the issue of Iranian nuclear programme and his government was hopeful that “solutions acceptable to all sides will be found.” He also made it clear that India was not part of any design to topple the regime in Iran.

The Prime Minister’s statement in both Houses (with clarifications in the Upper House) came as the 35-member Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency began its crucial meeting in Vienna today on the issue. He said to avoid confrontation on the Iran issue, “time must be given for diplomacy to work.”

In his reply to the debate on India’s vote at the IAEA on Iran’s nuclear programme, the Prime Minister made two important points. One, he said Iran had the legal right to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy, but it also had “certain obligations and responsibilities”. Second, he talked of the “unresolved question” regarding centrifuge imports and designs to make uranium metallic hemispheres . Without mincing words, he said: “The origin of such procurement is an issue of direct concern for us,” an obvious reference to the nuclear mart run by Pakistani scientist Dr A Q Khan.

The Prime Minister assured Parliament that members’ sentiments would be taken into account. “Whenever the matter is taken up, we will work with all like-minded countries, including those from the NAM, for a mutually acceptable resolution of the issue.”

Wire reports from Vienna quoted IAEA Chief Mohamed ElBaradei as expressing cautious optimism today on the chances of reaching an international agreement to defuse concerns about Iran's nuclear activities and make U.N. Security Council action unnecessary.

According to diplomatic circles here, there may be a give-and-take between the two sides----- Iran and US-backed EU3. Iran may finally move its uranium enrichment programme to Russia and, in return, it may be allowed to run a scaled-down uranium programme within Iranian territory. The latter part would be a big concession by the West, thus far strongly opposed to even a scaled-down uranium enrichment programme which can be misused in building nuclear weapons.

Moreover, contrary to public perception, it is highly unlikely that the Security Council would impose sanctions on Iran in the near future, considering the strident posture adopted by Russia and China. The IAEA Board is unlikely to discuss the Iran issue until March 7 or 8.

As the Board meeting opened today, Mr ElBaradei suggested the Security Council might not need to get involved. "I am still very much hopeful that in the next week an agreement could be reached," Mr ElBaradei told reporters.

There is a distinct possibility of Iran holding the next round of talks with EU3 in coming days. At the same time, Teheran is putting up a brave front. Its top negotiator, Mr Ali Larijani has said Iran would not abandon nuclear research or back down from pursuing an atomic programme that Teheran insists is only for peaceful purposes.

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |