By Daniel Dombey in London
Published: June 9 2006 22:06 | Last updated: June 9 2006 22:06
Time is running out for the diplomatic effort to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme and Washington has no intention of striking a comprehensive “grand bargain” with Tehran, the US’s ambassador to the United Nations has warned.
Speaking to the Financial Times, John Bolton made clear many of his reservations about the current outreach to Iran, which Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, has persuaded President George W. Bush to endorse.
Referring to a report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog that Iran has stepped up uranium enrichment – a process that can create both nuclear fuel and weapons grade material – Mr Bolton said: “They’ve got both feet on the accelerator, which is why we have a sense of urgency that these diplomatic efforts can’t continue indefinitely . . . Each day that goes by gives Iran more time to continue to perfect its efforts for mass production.”
While Iran insists that its nuclear programme is a purely peaceful attempt to bolster the country’s energy security, the US and the European Union suspect Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
But Russia and China have repeatedly made clear their doubts about sanctions against Tehran, pushing Washington instead to back a new package of incentives to Iran, which would give the Islamic republic help in a number of areas, including in constructing nuclear reactors.
The US has also agreed to join the negotiations with Iran, if Tehran suspends enrichment.
Mr Bolton, who describes himself as “not much a carrots man”, was quick to play down expectations of a dramatic breakthrough and highlighted many of the problems facing the diplomatic process.
“It would be a mistake to think these negotiations are a first step towards some kind of grand bargain [involving US recognition],” he said. “We are only addressing the nuclear issue and stopping their pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
He said US security guarantees for Iran were “not on the table”, and argued instead that regime change could remove a nuclear threat: “Our experience has been that when there is a dramatic change in the life of a country, that’s the most likely point at which they give up nuclear weapons.”
He added: “I think there will certainly be discussion of the question at the G8 summit” on July 15-17, by which time he said Iran had to make its response to the offer known.
“Some people thought for three years they [Iran] wanted to do a deal and there’s no deal out there, at least no deal that they’ve adhered to,” he said. “Maybe the deal that they want is the best of both worlds.”
Mr Bolton also voiced doubts that International Atomic Energy Agency inspections would be able to prove that Iran’s programme was purely peaceful, and said that sanctions against Iran if it declined the offer were “a step in the process”. But he also conceded that he could not predict whether the Security Council would back such a measure.
He said the EU, which conducted negotiations with Iran from 2003, had been embarrassed by a declaration by a former Iranian official that during that time the Islamic republic had worked on nuclear techniques.
“It shows why even as they sit contemplating this recent offer they’re still spinning centrifuges and now they’re putting gas in them,” he said.