June 28, 2006

Iran to dominate G8 foreign ministers’ meeting

By Michael Steen

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Foreign ministers from the Group of
Eight industrialized nations meet in Moscow on Thursday to
decide how best to nudge Iran to give a clear answer to
proposals aimed at ending the standoff over its nuclear plans.

Iran has yet to reply to the June 6 offer of incentives
from six world powers to persuade it to stop enriching uranium
without oversight by international atomic energy monitors.

The West fears Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program
but Tehran says the enrichment is for atomic power generation.

The European Union and United States have called for an
Iranian reply in "weeks, not months" after Iran said it would
not reply until late August. They indicated they would like it
before a summit of G8 leaders on July 15-17.

Russia, which has signed up to the incentive package but
has supported Iran's nuclear energy program, is pushing energy
security as the main topic of the summit being held in the
second city of St Petersburg. It is unlikely to want to see the
main event overshadowed by Iran, a G8 source said.

EU External Relations Commission Benita Ferrero-Waldner
told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday that Iran's response to
the incentive package would be discussed by the foreign

"Of course we will speak again about our offer," she said.
"We do hope that very soon the Iranians will very soon come
back with an answer ... I think it is important that the Vienna
package gets a wider endorsement at the meeting tomorrow."

A meeting between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani has been postponed
until after the ministers meet, an EU diplomat in Brussels

The G8 source said the Moscow meeting was likely to discuss
how best to persuade Iran to respond.

The European Union, the United States, Russia and China
have warned Iran that the U.N. Security Council will act
against it if it does not suspend uranium enrichment. But they
have also set no deadline and Moscow and Beijing oppose


The six powers -- the five permanent members of the
Security Council plus Germany -- had said they wanted all
uranium enrichment to halt as a condition for further talks.

But in a sign of possible divisions between Western powers,
German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung told Reuters Iran
should be allowed to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes and
under close monitoring by U.N. inspectors.

Russia and China have signaled they would tolerate
small-scale enrichment while the United States and Britain have
argued for long-term suspension of enrichment. It was not clear
if Germany's view had been agreed among all Western powers.

Thursday's meeting in Moscow will be attended by U.S.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the foreign ministers
of Russia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Britain.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated he wants a
smooth summit to showcase Russia's revived global role.

But Western suspicions that Putin is rolling back democracy
at home and using energy sources to dictate its will to its
neighbors could spring unpleasant surprises.

Russia has also made clear that it wants to avoid talking
about democracy in Belarus and breakaway regions of Georgia at
the summit, while Western officials want to see the former
Soviet Union's "frozen conflicts" on the agenda.