Sanctions could escalate Iran standoff

18th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 18, 2007 (AFP) - The UN's nuclear chief Mohammed ElBaradei warned Thursday that international sanctions imposed last month over Iran's atomic programme could escalate the standoff between Tehran and the West.

PARIS, Jan 18, 2007 (AFP) - The UN's nuclear chief Mohammed ElBaradei warned Thursday that international sanctions imposed last month over Iran's atomic programme could escalate the standoff between Tehran and the West.

"I don't think sanctions will resolve the issue," the International Atomic Energy Agency's director general told reporters in Paris. "I think sanctions could lead to escalation."

The UN Security Council in December imposed its first ever sanctions against Iran over its failure to suspend uranium enrichment, which Western powers fear could be used to make a nuclear weapon.

Iran insists that its nuclear drive is solely aimed at generating energy for a growing population.

Asked whether he supported French plans to send a special envoy to Tehran, ElBaradei said he "would support any effort by any side to engage Iran into comprehensive negotiation."

"My worry right now is that each side is sticking to its guns," ElBaradei said. "We need someone to reach out."

France's foreign ministry said this week it was discussing plans to send an envoy to Tehran to discuss "regional issues" including Lebanon and Israel -- but that he "would not attempt to tackle the nuclear question."

On Thursday the ministry said it had yet to reach a firm decision on sending an envoy, a proposal which has drawn hostile reactions from both Israel and the United States.

ElBaradei said he would discuss the best way to engage Tehran during talks later Thursday French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy.

"We obviously share the same objective that nobody wants to see Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

"It's a question of tactic, how you go about that, and I think it's what we are going to discuss today and see how we can move forward."

"My priority is to make sure that Iran will not go industrial (with the enrichment of uranium), that Iran will not stop inspections" by the UN's nuclear watchdog, ElBaradei said.

"We need to find a way to create the conditions to restart negotiations," he said, adding that "the idea that dialogue is a reward for a good behaviour is wrong for me."

Repeating his view that "the world is a less secure place than 15 years ago," ElBaradei also argued that the current nuclear status quo was "absolutely unjustified".

He said the refusal of nuclear-armed countries to disarm encourages a "domino phenomenon", pushing other countries such as Japan to seek nuclear arms as the guarantee of their big power status.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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