Key foreign ministers to discuss Iran talks

Key foreign ministers to

Foreign ministers from six major powers trying to curb Iran's nuclear power will meet with the European Union's top negotiator next week to discuss prospects and expectations for upcoming talks with Iranian officials, Britain's UN Ambassador said Wednesday. The ministerial meeting is expected to take place on Sept. 23, on the sidelines of the annual high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly, Ambassador John Sawers said. "It's an important opportunity for the six ministers and (EU foreign policy chief Javier) Solana to have an exchange about how these discussions and dialogue with Iran should be taken forward, what the perspective is, what we're looking for and what a reasonable degree of progress to expect would be," Sawers said. The US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany have tried unsuccessfully for several years to rein in Iran's nuclear program. The talks with Iran on Oct. 1, at the lower level of senior diplomats, would be the first since a 2008 session in Geneva foundered over Iran's refusal to discuss nuclear enrichment. The US, Iran and European Union have expressed hope the upcoming talks could lead to substantive negotiations - despite Iranian warnings it would not even discuss meeting UN Security Council demands that it freeze uranium enrichment. Halting the spread of nuclear weapons and promoting disarmament are the topic of another major event on the sidelines of the General Assembly - a high-level meeting of the Security Council on Sept. 24 to be chaired by US President Barack Obama. The United States has stressed that it wants a broad discussion of nonproliferation and disarmament issues and does not want to focus on any country. But the draft resolution which the US hopes will be adopted at the end of the council meeting reaffirms previous Security Council resolutions that imposed sanctions on Iran and North Korea for their nuclear activities, even though it includes no names. Another provision apparently aimed at Iran and North Korea "deplores" the current major challenges to nuclear nonproliferation that the council has determined to be threats to international peace and security. It "demands that the parties concerned comply fully with their obligations under the relevant Security Council resolutions." Obama pledged in an April 5 speech in the Czech Republic to eventually eliminate nuclear weapons, and the draft welcomes US-Russia negotiations to reduce their nuclear arsenals. It calls on all countries to refrain from conducting nuclear tests and join the test ban treaty and urges speedy negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. And it calls for improved access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy and stepped up efforts to ensure that nuclear materials and technology can't fall into the hands of terrorists. The draft also calls for strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty - a subject that will dominate next spring's UN conference to review the treaty. It requires signatory nations not to pursue nuclear weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five nuclear powers to move toward nuclear disarmament and guarantees non-nuclear states access to peaceful nuclear technology to produce nuclear power. A "Concept Paper" circulated to council members by the US Mission to the United Nations stresses the broad elements in the draft resolution, saying they "are part of a comprehensive approach to reducing global nuclear dangers and risks posed by terrorist acquisition of nuclear weapons or materials." "The threats are urgent and real, and the role of the Security Council in addressing these dangers is unique and indispensable," it says. "The summit meeting will help bring renewed international attention and determination to addressing these issues." The document makes no mention of Iran or North Korea. But Sawers, the British ambassador, said they must be part of the council's debate on Sept. 24. "We're quite clear that in order to strengthen the Nonproliferation Treaty and the whole nonproliferation regime, effective action is needed to deal with the concerns on both Iran and North Korea," Sawers told a briefing for a group of reporters. "We believe that the challenges posed by Iran and North Korea are very substantial and need to be addressed in this meeting," he said. "We will be explicit in that. I'm sure the prime minister (Britain's Gordon Brown) will be explicit in that in his statement to the council." Sawers said he expected other leaders to raise concerns about the two countries as well. But he stressed that "no one is seeking to use this resolution to advance specific measures being taken on Iran and North Korea," noting that the draft includes no new sanctions.