Copyright (c) 2007 The Daily Star
Friday, November 09, 2007
Saudi king urges Iran to avoid escalating tensions with West
Compiled by Daily Star staff
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah urged Iran to avoid escalation in its standoff with the West over its nuclear program as Israel's deputy prime minister called for the resignation of the head of the UN nuclear watchdog. King Abdullah called for a solution that would allow Tehran to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
The Saudi king's remarks, published on Thursday, come a week after Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said Iran's Gulf neighbors were willing to set up a body to provide it with enriched uranium.
"The world fears that Iran's nuclear program will lead to developing nuclear weapons. Iran has announced its nuclear program is intended for peaceful use," the king said in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine, carried by the official Saudi news agen-cy SPA. "If this is the case, then we don't see any justification for escalation, confrontation
and challenge, which only makes issues more complicated."
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries share US concerns that Iran's nuclear energy program is a cover for developing nuclear weapons. Iran insists its plans are peaceful.
Iran's deputy chief nuclear negotiator said last Saturday that Tehran welcomed proposals for joint enrichment projects with other countries, "but if the condition is stopping
enrichment in Iran, it will not be acceptable."
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana also pushed for a shared enrichment center and warned that existing non-proliferation rules were in danger of collapse because many countries perceived imbalances in the current treaty regime that favor existing nuclear powers.
He noted that Arab states such as Morocco, Egypt and Jordan had started ambitious nuclear programs in the last year, while Iran was enriching uranium for non-existent power stations.
"The only way of finding a lasting solution to these problems is ... by creating an international enrichment center under multilateral supervision. All states would have access to this enriched fuel on equal terms and at competitive prices," he said according to a text of his speech.
Israel's deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz called on Thursday for Mohamed ElBaradei to be replaced as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), accusing him of complacency over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Mofaz' comments coincided with an Israeli newspaper report quoting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as telling confidants in private conversations that ElBaradei, an Egyptian, was "no lover of Zion," a reference to the Jewish state.
Speaking on Israel Radio, Mofaz said ElBaradei should be replaced because of his "irresponsible and slow actions" in dealing with Iran.
In Paris, France's Foreign Ministry voiced support for ElBaradei in response to Mofaz' call for him to go.
"France is very attached to the IAEA, the international organization of which Mr. ElBaradei is the director general. In that capacity he has our full support," the French Foreign Ministry said.
"As for the Iranian nuclear program, the IAEA reports have regularly highlighted important grey areas. That is why we will examine with the greatest of attention the report that is to be handed over soon by Mr. ElBaradei on the dialogue launched with Iran on 'outstanding questions,'" the ministry said.
Iran and the IAEA were to hold more talks Thursday to resolve doubts about its nuclear work, officials said, a week ahead of an IAEA report key to deciding on tougher sanctions against Tehran. Iran had said at the end of four days of talks in Tehran a week ago that it had provided all information the IAEA needed to remove ambiguities about its development of centrifuges and there would be no more discussions about it.
But an IAEA official said Mohammad Saeedi, deputy director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, would meet Olli Heinonen, the UN watchdog's deputy head in charge of non-proliferation safeguards, at agency headquarters in Vienna in the late afternoon.
China on Thursday called on Tehran to heed world concerns a day after Iran's president defiantly ruled out any concessions on its nuclear program.
Declaring that Iran "couldn't care less" about UN sanctions threats, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Iran had 3,000 centrifuges up and running for uranium enrichment. - Agencies
Copyright (c) 2007 The Daily Star