WASHINGTON/PARIS (EJP/AFP) ---US President Barack Obama expressed before G8 leaders on Saturday a hope to see the next round of Iran nuclear talks in Baghdad succeed.
“We are united in our approach to Iran,” he said. “I think that we are completely in agreement on the fact that Iran has the right to a peaceful nuclear (programme), but their continuous violation of international rules and inability until now to prove that they are not trying to militarise constitutes a serious source of anxiety for us all,” he declared in the course of the G8 summit, which brought together the eight most industrialised countries at Camp David (Maryland).
Several days before the resumption of talks of the P5+1 (the US, France, Russia, Great Britain, China and Germany) with Iran in the Iraqi capital, Obama confirmed his hopes had been encouraged by their results.
However, he said, “we are all strongly committed to pursuing a policy of sanctions and pressure, in conjunction with diplomacy. We hope that we can resolve this problem in a peaceful way, that respects the sovereignty of Iran and their rights as part of the international community, but that also recognises their responsibilities”.
On Sunday, the Director General of the International Agency of Atomic Energy (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, will begin a two day visit to Tehran to demand a greater cooperation from Iran. On Wednesday, the Iranian administration will meet with the P5+1 in Baghdad, a little more than one month after the last talks in Istanbul, which were judged to be “constructive and useful”, by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Israel remains convinced that the Iranian nuclear programme is a military one and a threat to its existence and is prepared for the possibility of launching a military strike against Iran, should diplomacy fail.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes Iran is trying to “gain time”. The prospect of a new open war in the Middle East worries Washington, especially in the middle of an election year. Obama has regularly stated that diplomatic avenues remain open even if “time passes”.
After having met Barack Obama for the first time at the White House on Friday, the new French president Francois Hollande stated his position on the Iran affair, expressing a wish “that negotiations force a commitment, but with essential firmness so that at no time will Iran have access to nuclear technology for military ends”, in a press conference following the meeting.
Several days ago, Iran had rolled out the red carpet for a “private” visit from the former Socialist Prime Minister Michel Rocard, considered as Francois Hollande’s special envoy to Tehran, as Iran looks for improved bilateral relations between the two countries.
He was received in the Iranian capital by Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi, before meeting the Iranian nuclear envoy Said Jalili, who is also Secretary for the Supreme Council for security and a close ally of the Islamic Republic Guide Ali Khamenei.
This visit – planned in April and then postponed on account of Rocard’s health problems – comes in the wake of the election of Socialist Francois Hollande to the French presidency, and Tehran jumped at the opportunity for an opening with the new French administration.
Following his interview with Rocard, Salehi “congratulated Francois Hollande on his victory” and hoped it would signify “a new approach to develop relations between Tehran and Paris in every sector”, reported the official Iranian news agency.
Under Nicolas Sarkozy, France took a “hard” line against Iran during two years in which France imposed severe economic sanctions against the country.
On his return from Iran, Michel Rocard was invited to the Elysee Palace in Paris for lunch with the new French president.
According to a colleague of Rocard, he had had a phone conversation with Francois Hollande on 28 March to plan the Iranian trip. Hollande was neither enthusiastic nor motivated by the prospect.
He then asked Pierre Moscovici, his Campaign Director and once touted as possible Foreign Minister, to address a letter to Rocard, but he refused “because of his abhorrence for the Iranian regime.”
Moscovici has meanwhile been appointed Finance Minister in Hollande’s government while Laurent Fabius, a former Prime Minister, became Foreign Minister.
According to the French media, over the last few days, the president’s closest advisors tried to distance themselves from Rocard’s visit to Iran.
France’s ambassador to Iran, Bruno Foucher, didn’t attend Rocard’s meetings with the Iranian Foreign Minister and the Iranian nuclear negotiator. However, the former Socialist Prime Minister had two lunches with Ambassador Foucher who sent diplomatic telegrams to the French administration to update them on the meetings between Rocard and the Iranian leaders.