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Annan urges Iranian negotiator to avoid escalation

Secretary-General urges Iranian nuclear negotiator to avoid escalation

12 January 2006 – Responding to Iran’s decision to end its suspension of uranium enrichment activities, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged Tehran’s key nuclear official to find a negotiated settlement and later briefed key countries on his diplomatic efforts.

Mr. Annan, who also spoke extensively today with Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told reporters that he is “extremely concerned” about the situation.

While enriched uranium can be used for peaceful purposes such as generating energy, it is also used to produce nuclear weapons. Iran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and insists that its programme is solely for civilian energy production, but the IAEA wants to clarify Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Mr. Annan said he called Ali Larijani “to urge him to avoid any escalation, to exercise restraint, to go back and give the negotiations a chance, and that the only viable solution lies in a negotiated one.”

The Secretary-General added that the Iranian negotiator “affirmed to me that they are interested in serious and constructive negotiations, but within a time frame.”

Asked how the issue should be dealt with, Mr. Annan said: “First of all, I think we should try and resolve it, if possible, in the IAEA context.”

He noted that Mr. ElBaradei is working to find a solution. “Once that process is exhausted, it may end up in the [Security] Council and then I would leave it to the Council, to decide what to do, if it were to come here,” the Secretary-General said. “I wouldn’t want to pre-empt them.”

Mr. Annan said he would pursue his personal efforts as well. “I have been talking to all the parties, doing whatever I can to encourage a negotiated settlement and really keeping people at the table and trying to discourage escalation, and I will continue to do that,” he said. “My good offices are always available; if I need to do more, and the parties so wish, I will do it.”

The Secretary-General later met with representatives of France, the United Kingdom, and Germany – the so-called “EU-3” – as well as the Russian Federation and the United States to brief them on his conversation with Mr. Larijani.

In a statement issued later Mr. Annan said “the interest of all concerned is for a constructive process that will give diplomacy a chance.”

Earlier this week, IAEA inspectors reported that Iran had broken Agency seals at the Natanz facility and two related storage and testing locations, Pars Trash and Farayand Technique.

The previous week, Iran had requested that the IAEA lift the seals, which covered centrifuge components, special steel, high strength aluminium and centrifuge quality control and manufacturing equipment, as well as two cylinders containing UF6 located at Natanz. UF6 is uranium hexafluoride, which flows through the centrifuges in the enrichment process.

The seals also covered some process equipment at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz.

Iran’s Safeguards Agreement under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) authorizes the IAEA to “apply its seals and other identifying and tamper-indicating devices” as needed.

Iran suspended all uranium enrichment and reprocessing in 2004 in the so-called Paris agreement for talks with the EU-3 to resolve issues arising out of the disclosure that it had for almost two decades concealed its nuclear activities in breach of the NPT.

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