(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
WASHINGTON — The United States moved Thursday to head off a joint Turkish-Brazilian effort that could help Iran avoid new United Nations sanctions over its suspect nuclear program.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a blunt message to Turkey's foreign minister, telling him that Iran is not serious about accepting international demands to prove its nuclear program peaceful. She said Teheran must face fresh penalties unless it does a quick about-face and complies.
Clinton will likely give the same message to Brazil's foreign minister ahead of a weekend visit to Teheran by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. US officials think Iran will use the trip to try to sabotage their efforts to draft new UN Security Council sanctions. Turkey and Brazil are members of the council and are opposed to new sanctions.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that in her call to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu Clinton had stressed that "in our view, Iran's recent diplomacy was an attempt to stop Security Council action without actually taking steps to address international concerns about its nuclear program."
"There is nothing new and nothing encouraging in Iran's recent statements," he told reporters. "...The burden is with Iran and its lack of seriousness about engagement requires us to intensify efforts to apply greater pressure."
US officials think Iran may turn the occasion of Silva's visit into a broader meeting that would seek to shift attention from its refusal to comply with demands that it halt uranium enrichment, which can produce fuel for a nuclear bomb.
One official said Silva's trip would likely mark the end of attempts
to engage Iran on the matter.
Iran's foreign ministry said on
Tuesday that Silva and Turkish President Abdullah Gul would be visiting
Teheran next week and that Iran would also be hosting a summit of
developing countries known as the Group of 15 next week, with at least
eight presidents in attendance.
It also said that Brazil and
Turkey had offered a promising new proposal for a nuclear fuel deal that
would make the US-led push for sanctions irrelevant. Teheran has made a
series of counteroffers after rejecting a UN-backed plan that offered
nuclear fuel rods for a reactor in exchange for Iran's stock of
lower-level enriched uranium.
But those offers have all fallen
short of Western demands aimed at ensuring Teheran is unable to produce
Top Iranian officials have been courting Brazil,
Turkey and other nonpermanent Security Council members to pre-empt
possible sanctions. Only permanent Council members could veto proposed
sanctions, but strong opposition by nonpermanent members could
strengthen Iran's case.
Turkish officials have said they and
Brazil are in constant contact to try to find a solution and that they
are "building on" the UN-backed nuclear exchange plan.
Brazil has urged Western nations to negotiate a fair solution with