Annan: Patience, not sanctions, will solve Iran nuclear dispute
UN chief: Talks with nuclear negotiator 'constructive'; Iran FM promises 'full cooperation' on truce resolution.
Iran's foreign minister offered UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan his country's full cooperation over a Security Council resolution on the truce between Israel and Hezbollah, a UN spokesman said Saturday after talks in Tehran.
Annan also met with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, describing the meeting as "constructive."
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told Annan he could count on his "full cooperation" on resolution 1701, Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for Annan said. "We are pleased to hear that."
"There was a reference to paragraph 15 of the resolution, which deals with the arms embargo. The secretary-general did refer to paragraph 15," Fawzi said.
Asked about Iran's specific response on the arms embargo, Fawzi said: "I can't go any further than that."
The European Union agreed on Saturday to try to clarify Iran's stance on halting uranium enrichment within two weeks.
Annan's visit to Iran takes place two days after the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reported Tehran had failed to meet the UN Security Council's August 31 deadline to suspend sensitive work.
After meeting with Ali Larijani, the top Iranian nuclear negotiator, Annan said, "I have just had very good and constructive discussions with Mr. Larijani."
"As you can imagine we discussed the nuclear issue and many other issues of concern to Iran and to the United Nations," he said.
Larijani said the secretary-general's "stance for solving the nuclear problems is positive."
"Both sides agreed that problems to be solved through negotiations," he added.
Larijani is scheduled to hold talks with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana early next week.
The UN spokesman said Annan held a telephone conversation with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prior to the visit. He is due to meet Ahmadinejad on Sunday.
"(Ahmadinejad) had told him that while he had some reservations over some articles in the resolution, he would nevertheless cooperate in it's implementation," Fawzi said, without giving details about Iran's reservations.
Annan said in a newspaper interview before arriving that he hoped for a diplomatic solution that would "avoid another conflict in a region already subjected to a great stress at this moment."
Asked about indications that the United States wants to move to sanctions, he told the French daily Le Monde, "I do not believe that sanctions are the solution to all problems."
"There are moments when a bit of patience produces lots of effects. I think that is a quality we must exercise more often," he said in the interview, published Saturday.
Annan told Le Monde he wants Iran to work with the international community, using its influence so Hezbollah can be disarmed in accordance with the UN cease-fire resolution.
"I am here to discuss implementation of resolution 1701, which deals with the situation in Lebanon, and I will also discuss issues of concern in this region to the international community," Annan told reporters shortly before heading into talks with Mottaki.
The secretary-general arrived in the Iranian capital two days after the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reported Tehran had failed to meet the UN Security Council's August 31 deadline to halt uranium enrichment.
Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for Annan who has been on a week-long Middle East trip to bolster the truce, said the main purpose of the visit was to discuss Lebanon.
But Fawzi said: "Certainly the issue of the [Iranian] nuclear program will be visited."
Iran is one of the main backers of Hezbollah, and Annan is expected to urge a commitment to a ban on exporting arms to the guerrillas as demanded by a Security Council resolution that ushered in the August 14 truce.
Although Iran funded and armed Hezbollah in the 1980s, it now says its support is primarily moral and political. But analysts say Hezbollah is equipped with Iranian arms and used them in the 34-day war against Israel.
Annan has already visited Lebanon, Israel, Syria (another Hezbollah ally), and Qatar, the only Arab state currently with a seat on the UN Security Council. In Damascus, Annan said Syria promised to enforce the arms embargo on Hezbollah.
Before Annan began his tour, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: "It is clear that Iran has an influence on certain parts of Lebanese society, and we would hope to use that influence positively."
Analysts say Iran may have been emboldened in its nuclear standoff by the Lebanon conflict, which Tehran declared a victory for Hezbollah. Iran insists its atomic plans are civilian but Western governments suspect it intends to develop nuclear bombs.
Ahmadinejad will visit New York this month to attend the United Nations General Assembly, state television IRIB reported Saturday.
In an interview with IRIB, Mottaki confirmed that Ahmadinejad will visit the UN General Assembly and address the assembly.
This would be the second visit by Ahmadinejad to the United States since taking office in August 2005. In September 2005, he was at UN headquarters in New York to speak to the General Assembly.
Jewish organization asks Annan to protest Iran's Holocaust cartoonsAnnan raised concerns with Iranian officials on Saturday over an exhibition of cartoons about the Holocaust that opened in response to last year's Muslim outrage over a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.
The American Jewish Committee has asked Annan to speak out against Iran's Holocaust cartoon exhibition in his visit Saturday to Tehran.
In a letter circulated on Friday, the committee said Annan should use the opportunity to speak out "publicly and privately" about the exhibit. The AJC lobbies against anti-Semitism and for pluralism.
Annan brought up the issue in talks with Foreign Minister Mottaki, said Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi.
Annan said, "we should avoid anything that incites hatred" and that he had not seen the Holocaust cartoons but "from what he heard he would find them pretty distasteful, as he did the Danish cartoons about the Prophet Mohammed, which he strongly condemned at the time," Fawzi said.
"While (Annan) respects freedom of expression, he believes it should be used responbsibly with due respect for people's feelings," he said, without specifying Mottaki's response.
The Holocaust cartoon exhibit opened last month at Tehran's Caricature House, with 204 entries from Iran and abroad, in retaliation for last September's publication of caricatures of Muhammad in Danish and other European newspapers.
The images of Mohammed sparked attacks on European embassies in Muslim nations, including missions in Iran.
The cartoons were submitted after the exhibit's co-sponsor, the Hamshahri newspaper, said it wanted to test the West's tolerance for drawings about the Nazi killing of 6 million Jews in World War II. The entries on display came from nations including United States, Indonesia and Turkey.
One cartoon by Indonesian Tony Thomdean shows the Statue of Liberty holding a book on the Holocaust in its left hand and giving a Nazi-style salute with the other.
"While we understand there are many vital issues on your agenda during your meetings in Iran, failure to address this government-endorsed and encouraged anti-Semitism would be seen, both inside and outside of Iran, as either acquiescence or worse, endorsement," the AJC letter said.
"Such an interpretation would be especially dangerous given the context of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments calling for Israel's destruction," wrote AJC's executive director, David Harris, and its president, Robert Goodkind.
The AJC letter said that Annan's visit would probably coincide with an announcement expected Sunday of the winners of the contest.
It also expressed appreciation for Annan's "prior statements about the bigotry of Holocaust denial and the importance of not using free speech as a pretext for hateful incitement."