Tuesday, September 07, 2004

IHT: Israeli satellite, set to spy on Iran, falls into sea

IHT: Israeli satellite, set to spy on Iran, falls into sea: "TEL AVIV An Israeli spy satellite intended to increase surveillance over Iran landed in the sea on Monday after a rocket malfunctioned shortly after takeoff, Israeli officials said.
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The satellite, Ofek-6, was meant to give Israel more early warning in case of a missile attack and to provide more information on Iran's extensive missile program. Ofek means "horizon" in Hebrew.
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Iran has already tested the Shahab-3 missile, which can reach Israel and beyond, and it is working to build nuclear weapons to mount on it, according to senior Israeli military and intelligence officials.
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"Iran wants to become a regional superpower and then a global superpower," an official said in an interview on Monday. "They intend to be the latter, and this is what worries us the most."
.
Iran is a beneficiary of the American "war on terrorism," against the Taliban in Afghanistan, an Iranian rival, and especially after the overthrow of the forces of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, traditionally its main regional adversary.
.
The Israelis believe that Iran wants nuclear weapons to further and bolster its flagging revolution, to provide an alternative to Egyptian secular moderation, and to challenge the military supremacy of Israel and the United States in the Middle East.
.
"When the Iranians have enough fuel for enrichment and the technology for it, it's over," the Israeli official said. "We hope somebody will do something about it pretty soon."
.
Israel, whose northern border is lined with Iranian-financed Hezbollah, is reluctant to act alone as it did in the 1980s, when it bombed the French-built Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak.
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Iran is much larger and has many more nuclear sites, and it is questionable whether Israel has enough fighter-bombers and refueling tankers to accomplish such a mission, let alone deal with the repercussions. "It's a big, sensitive debate," the official said.
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The Israeli concerns about Iran, which date back at least 10 years, are at the center of a so-called spying scandal in Washington involving a Defense Department official, Lawrence Franklin, and his alleged contacts with the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
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Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, on Monday signed a deal with Israel to increase intelligence coordination. Israel and the United States charge that Russia continues to aid Iran with nuclear technology.
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Russia's deal with Israel comes after the terrorist attack on a school in Russia. Israel is always looking for friends, and officials were pleased to hear the Russian official, Lavrov, call for "a united front in the battle against terrorism."
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The Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, said, "Israel and Russia share interests to cooperate against terrorism. Today we discussed ways to do so."
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Russia, traditionally a supporter of the Palestinian cause, is also a key member of the so-called quartet. The European Union, along with the United Nations, the United States and Russia, make up the quartet, whose plan calls for separate sovereign states for the Palestinians and Israelis.
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Shalom told Israel radio: "On the nuclear issue, I think there is a certain change, in Russia and Europe, too, regarding the possibility that Iran will have nuclear weapons. This is a nightmare for most countries of the world, particularly after they discovered that Iran is trying to develop a missile with a range that will also cover southern Russia, as well as European capitals like Paris, London and Berlin."
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On Monday, in the West Bank city Ramallah, the head of Egyptian intelligence, Omar Suleiman, and Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Abdul Gheit, met with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, and his security chiefs to discuss plans for a possible Israeli disengagement from Gaza.
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The Egyptians said that they would take responsibility for continuing talks with militant factions like Hamas and Islamic Jihad "to guarantee the unity of the Palestinian national movement" on the Gaza issue. Arafat, meanwhile, would work to control the disputes within Fatah, the largest and most secular of the Palestinian political factions.
.
The New York Times TEL AVIV An Israeli spy satellite intended to increase surveillance over Iran landed in the sea on Monday after a rocket malfunctioned shortly after takeoff, Israeli officials said.
.
The satellite, Ofek-6, was meant to give Israel more early warning in case of a missile attack and to provide more information on Iran's extensive missile program. Ofek means "horizon" in Hebrew.
.
Iran has already tested the Shahab-3 missile, which can reach Israel and beyond, and it is working to build nuclear weapons to mount on it, according to senior Israeli military and intelligence officials.
.
"Iran wants to become a regional superpower and then a global superpower," an official said in an interview on Monday. "They intend to be the latter, and this is what worries us the most."
.
Iran is a beneficiary of the American "war on terrorism," against the Taliban in Afghanistan, an Iranian rival, and especially after the overthrow of the forces of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, traditionally its main regional adversary.
.
The Israelis believe that Iran wants nuclear weapons to further and bolster its flagging revolution, to provide an alternative to Egyptian secular moderation, and to challenge the military supremacy of Israel and the United States in the Middle East.
.
"When the Iranians have enough fuel for enrichment and the technology for it, it's over," the Israeli official said. "We hope somebody will do something about it pretty soon."
.
Israel, whose northern border is lined with Iranian-financed Hezbollah, is reluctant to act alone as it did in the 1980s, when it bombed the French-built Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak.
.
Iran is much larger and has many more nuclear sites, and it is questionable whether Israel has enough fighter-bombers and refueling tankers to accomplish such a mission, let alone deal with the repercussions. "It's a big, sensitive debate," the official said.
.
The Israeli concerns about Iran, which date back at least 10 years, are at the center of a so-called spying scandal in Washington involving a Defense Department official, Lawrence Franklin, and his alleged contacts with the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
.
Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, on Monday signed a deal with Israel to increase intelligence coordination. Israel and the United States charge that Russia continues to aid Iran with nuclear technology.
.
Russia's deal with Israel comes after the terrorist attack on a school in Russia. Israel is always looking for friends, and officials were pleased to hear the Russian official, Lavrov, call for "a united front in the battle against terrorism."
.
The Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, said, "Israel and Russia share interests to cooperate against terrorism. Today we discussed ways to do so."
.
Russia, traditionally a supporter of the Palestinian cause, is also a key member of the so-called quartet. The European Union, along with the United Nations, the United States and Russia, make up the quartet, whose plan calls for separate sovereign states for the Palestinians and Israelis.
.
Shalom told Israel radio: "On the nuclear issue, I think there is a certain change, in Russia and Europe, too, regarding the possibility that Iran will have nuclear weapons. This is a nightmare for most countries of the world, particularly after they discovered that Iran is trying to develop a missile with a range that will also cover southern Russia, as well as European capitals like Paris, London and Berlin."
.
On Monday, in the West Bank city Ramallah, the head of Egyptian intelligence, Omar Suleiman, and Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Abdul Gheit, met with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, and his security chiefs to discuss plans for a possible Israeli disengagement from Gaza.
.
The Egyptians said that they would take responsibility for continuing talks with militant factions like Hamas and Islamic Jihad "to guarantee the unity of the Palestinian national movement" on the Gaza issue. Arafat, meanwhile, would work to control the disputes within Fatah, the largest and most secular of the Palestinian political factions.
.
The New York Times TEL AVIV An Israeli spy satellite intended to increase surveillance over Iran landed in the sea on Monday after a rocket malfunctioned shortly after takeoff, Israeli officials said.
.
The satellite, Ofek-6, was meant to give Israel more early warning in case of a missile attack and to provide more information on Iran's extensive missile program. Ofek means "horizon" in Hebrew.
.
Iran has already tested the Shahab-3 missile, which can reach Israel and beyond, and it is working to build nuclear weapons to mount on it, according to senior Israeli military and intelligence officials.
.
"Iran wants to become a regional superpower and then a global superpower," an official said in an interview on Monday. "They intend to be the latter, and this is what worries us the most."
.
Iran is a beneficiary of the American "war on terrorism," against the Taliban in Afghanistan, an Iranian rival, and especially after the overthrow of the forces of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, traditionally its main regional adversary.
.
The Israelis believe that Iran wants nuclear weapons to further and bolster its flagging revolution, to provide an alternative to Egyptian secular moderation, and to challenge the military supremacy of Israel and the United States in the Middle East.
.
"When the Iranians have enough fuel for enrichment and the technology for it, it's over," the Israeli official said. "We hope somebody will do something about it pretty soon."
.
Israel, whose northern border is lined with Iranian-financed Hezbollah, is reluctant to act alone as it did in the 1980s, when it..."

Iran Says It Is Ready to Test Ballistic Missile in Front of 'Observers'

Iran Says It Is Ready to Test Ballistic Missile in Front of 'Observers': "Iran Says It Is Ready to Test Ballistic Missile in Front of 'Observers'
VOA News
07 Sep 2004, 15:27 UTC


Iran says it is ready to test its new medium-range (Shahab-3) ballistic missile in front of 'observers,' following a successful test firing last month.
Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani did not say who those observers might be. He said the missile was designed to increase Iran's deterrent ability against its enemies -- namely Israel.
Tehran has said the Shahab-3 is entirely Iranian made, but some of its technology is believed to come from North Korea.
Israel, with U.S. help, has developed the Arrow anti-missile system to counter threats including new Iranian missiles. "

New Zealand Herald - Latest News

New Zealand Herald - Latest News: "Iran nears deal on renewed nuclear freeze

08.09.2004 11.25 am

VIENNA - Iran has agreed in principle to renew a freeze of some sensitive nuclear activities in a move apparently aimed at easing pressure ahead of a UN nuclear watchdog meeting next week, diplomats said on Tuesday.

Details of the deal were not immediately clear and have yet to be finalised. However, two diplomats said it would include halting production, testing and assembly of centrifuges.

Iran pledged last year to suspend all enrichment-related activities but has since resumed building centrifuges and last week said it intended to process 37 tonnes of raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride, the feed material for centrifuges.

Centrifuges enrich uranium for use in power stations or -- if enriched further -- nuclear bombs.

"Iran said this weekend that they would come back to the suspension. (IAEA chief Mohamed) ElBaradei is trying to work out the details with the Iranians," a Western diplomat on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board told Reuters.

Washington says Iran's uranium enrichment programme is aimed at making material for nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying it is only interested in generating electricity.

Negotiations between Iran and ElBaradei took place at the weekend. The European Union's "big three" -- France, Britain and Germany -- who negotiated the original suspension, followed proceedings closely, diplomats said.

Iran's ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna would neither confirm nor deny that talks had taken place. Officials in Tehran were not immediately available for comment.

All the diplomats told Reuters it was unclear if uranium hexafluoride production would be included in the suspension.

"It would include a suspension of centrifuge production, assembly and testing. It's unclear what the status of (uranium hexafluoride) would be," the Western diplomat said.

One nuclear expert said the uranium hexafluoride Iran intends to produce would hypothetically be enough for roughly five nuclear weapons.

Iran's announcement provoked the wrath of the United States, Iran's harshest critic.

"Iran's announcements are further strong evidence of the compelling need to take Iran's nuclear programme to the Security Council," US Undersecretary of State John Bolton said.

Diplomats at the United Nations, however, say Washington has little support for such a move.

The three EU powers, frustrated by Iran's lack of transparency, are planning to propose a board resolution but have so far been unable to agree on how critical it should be.

"There is no consensus on a resolution. The Brits want a tough resolution and the Germans would prefer to avoid that. The French are undecided," one diplomat said.

The European Union, the United States and the IAEA condemned Iran in June after it said it intended to resume assembling and testing centrifuges as well as making centrifuge components.

The IAEA's sixth report in its two-year investigation into Iran's nuclear programme said many questions remained unanswered, including the origin of enriched-uranium particles found in Iran and work on advanced P-2 centrifuges.

- REUTERS"

Powell says Negotiate With Terrorists - Modern Day Neville Chamberlain

Welcome to AJC!:

Like a modern day Neville Chamberlain Secretary of State Powell begs Putin to Negotiate With Terrorists. JBOC

"U.S. Calls for Diplomacy With Chechens

AP Photo MOSB119

By BARRY SCHWEID
AP Diplomatic Writer


WASHINGTON AP)--The Bush administration differed Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said that only a political settlement could end the crisis between Russia and the breakaway region of Chechnya.

The administration also left open the possibility of U.S. meetings with Chechens who are not linked to terrorists.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage signed a book of condolences at the Russian Embassy over the deaths of at least 330 people, most of them children, during a hostage-taking last week at a school in the southern city of Beslan.

And, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that in response to a request from the Russian government, two C-130 cargo planes had flown medical supplies worth about $580,000, which were stockpiled in Germany, to Russia and planned an additional flight from Italy.

Also, U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow released in Moscow $50,000 in emergency assistance, Boucher said.

In an interview Monday with a group of foreign journalists and academics, Putin rejected Western calls for negotiations with Chechen rebel representatives, Britain's Guardian and Independent newspapers reported.

``Why don't you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace?'' the Guardian quoted Putin as saying sarcastically.

``You find it possible to set some limitations in your dealings with these bastards, so why should we talk to people who are child-killers?''

Putin said foreigners should have ``no more questions about our policy in Chechnya'' after the attackers shot children in the back, and said the Chechen cause was aimed at undermining all of southern Russia and majority-Muslim regions of the country.

Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said Tuesday that ``our view on the overall situation has not changed.'' That is, he said, ultimately ``there must be a political settlement'' over Chechnya."

EU calls on Iran to cooperate with nuclear watchdog

deepikaglobal.com - World News Detail: "EU calls on Iran to cooperate with nuclear watchdog
AMSTERDAM, Sep 7 (Reuters) The Dutch government, holders of the rotating European Union presidency, has called on Iran to do more to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Dutch made the call in a statement late yesterday after a visit by Hassan Rohani, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, and after EU foreign ministers discussed the issue of Iran at a meeting in the Netherlands at the weekend.

Rohani met Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Foreign Minister Bernard Bot.

''Minister Bot told Rohani that the intensification of Iran's cooperation with the IAEA about Iran's nuclear programme is needed to regain the trust of the international community,'' said the Dutch statement, issued in the name of the EU presidency.

''The Dutch presidency also raised a number of other concerns, such as human rights, terrorism and Iran's position towards Israel.'' At their weekend meeting, EU foreign ministers said they were discussing whether to take Iran to the U N Security Council for its failure to cooperate fully with U N efforts to ensure it is not secretly trying to develop atomic weapons.

Diplomats say Britain, Germany and France, who have tried to coax Tehran into halting uranium enrichment, are preparing to draft a resolution to be presented to the IAEA Board of Governors when it begins meeting on Sept. 13.

Washington accuses Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons while the oil-producing Islamic Republic insists its programme is purely for electricity generation."

Rowhani: EU must play straight with Iran

Description of Selected News: "EU must play straight with Iran

By Hassan Hanizadeh
Hassan Rowhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, held discussions on Monday with Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot and other officials of the Netherlands, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

These discussions are being held on the threshold of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meeting, which begins on September 13.

Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has repeatedly announced its position on the use of nuclear technology meant for peaceful purposes, unfortunately, EU foreign ministers expressed concern about Iran’s nuclear activities at their recent meeting in Maastricht, the Netherlands.

The EU foreign ministers aired their negative views on the subject shortly after IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei issued a favorable report on Iran’s nuclear program which indicated that Iran had fulfilled its nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) commitments.

The IAEA director general’s report should allay the international community’s concerns since it proves that Iran’s nuclear activities have been above board.

At this point in time, the IAEA Board should make every effort to maintain its independence, despite the pressure of the United States and the Zionist lobby, and should permanently close Iran’s nuclear dossier, in line with the findings of ElBaradei’s report.

The EU should also try to avoid being influenced by U.S. policy and should fulfill the commitments it made to the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Tehran Declaration of October 2003.

Diplomatic relations between the EU and Iran should be based on mutual trust and prove that European countries’ are independent and are able to make decisions without fear of the U.S. sword of Damocles.

Relations between the European Union and the Islamic world have cooled dramatically due to the EU’s unwise decision in recent years to follow the provocative policies of the United States, which are not in the best interests of Western countries, especially in the Middle East.

With the IAEA Board of Governors session approaching and the ambiguities about Iran’s nuclear dossier resolved according to ElBaradei’s report, both the IAEA Board and the EU should recognize Iran’s right to gain access to nuclear technology meant for peaceful purposes.

The EU, an independent bloc that formerly had warm relations with the Islamic world, should help Iran at the IAEA Board meeting and neutralize the U.S. pressure, which is being used to jumpstart U.S. President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign."

MSNBC - Commentary: If You're Not With Us...

MSNBC - Commentary: If You're Not With Us...: "Commentary: If You're Not With Us...
Would Bush cultivate multilateralism if reelected? Don't bet on it By Stan Crock

Updated: 8:00 a.m. ET Sept. 7, 2004Recently, some foreign diplomats have concluded that if he wins a second term, George W. Bush might hang up his Lone Ranger mask and turn in his silver bullet. After three years of clashing with international organizations on arms control, global treaties, and the charge into Iraq, he has at times seemed to soften the "with us or against us" rhetoric that sets teeth on edge in foreign capitals. After hanging tough in talks over North Korea's nuclear program, the Administration is now dangling inducements. In Iraq, the White House asked the U.N. to play a major role in crafting the new political process, and the U.S. has begun awarding contracts to companies from countries that opposed the war. It has all led to predictions of a kinder, gentler policy. "If Bush is reelected, his second term will have to be more realistic, more moderate," says Dominique Moisi, a top adviser to the French Institute of International Relations.

Don't bet your foie gras on it. Administration insiders say that, despite any shifts on his national security team, the President is determined to take a proactive role in the war on global terror. That means he would keep up the pressure on rogue states -- and on allies that aren't equally aggressive in fighting terrorism. Experts call the small shifts on Iraq and North Korea tactical, not a strategic U-turn. And if, as expected, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell steps down, his successor may lack both his stature and pragmatic bent.

Liberated from reelection concerns, Bush would be freer to be Bush -- a plain-spoken leader who believes that September 11 thrust the U.S. into a new era where traditional concerns about sovereignty and international consensus gave way to the overriding need to strike America's enemies before they acquire lethal weapons. "You can't afford to let threats gather," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who could succeed Powell, told BusinessWeek on Aug. 30.

This worldview reflects the thinking of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. But it's likely to prevail even if Rummy decamps and is replaced by a moderate, such as Navy Secretary Gordon R. England. The policy drivers are Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, who would still be calling the shots. "I don't detect any questioning of the basics" on Bush's part, says one Republican foreign-policy mandarin. "It's unlikely a second term would be fundamentally different from the first."

Ripples of Discontent

Still, certain realities may force at least some changes in a Bush Act II. No Administration can endure a setback such as the Iraq occupation -- a costly affair that has left Iraqi radicals in charge of major cities -- without consequences. At a minimum, the mess has forced the Bushies to ask for more Allied help on issues ranging from rebuilding to a U.N. blessing for the new political structure. The massive cost of the war -- some $124 billion budgeted so far -- is draining the Treasury and threatening GOP initiatives from tax cuts to Social Security reform. U.S. armed forces are stretched thin, limiting their ability to operate elsewhere. Finally, there are the suppressed ripples of discontent among traditional GOPers, who abhor nation-building.

One possible change: The neoconservatives determined to mold new democracies around the world could lose considerable clout. Former Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard N. Perle already has left his advisory post. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, a key architect of Iraq policy, could depart. So might Defense Under Secretary for Policy Douglas J. Feith; a staffer in his office is in hot water over an alleged leak to Israel.

What's more, even if Bush can start to extricate the U.S. from Iraq by 2006, the challenges for the President's assertive policy just get tougher. Iran and North Korea, the other members of Bush's Axis of Evil, aren't the hollow military targets Iraq was. "Options for military force are relatively limited" with those nations, says Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, a GOP national security specialist.

As the turmoil in Iraq shows, military force often isn't enough to achieve policy goals. The Bush team acknowledges that and insists that it values diplomacy. But the Iraq intervention has alienated many allies. A Harris Poll in June found approval for the Administration averaging just 7% in both Iraq coalition partners such as Britain and Italy and war foes France and Germany. "The second Bush Administration could well face much more serious problems than the first," says Geoffrey Kemp, a GOP foreign policy expert at the Washington-based Nixon Center.

With hostage-taking sapping the will of some Iraq coalition partners, the Administration's best hope is a gradual U.S. troop pullout that begins late next year. Growing support for a freely elected Iraqi government could weaken insurgents' arguments that the regime is an American puppet. "The military is trying to provide a secure environment," says Rice. "But it's the political struggle that matters."

The next major flash point looks to be Iran, which Washington charges is intent on pursuing a nuclear program. Iran has stronger economic ties to the outside world than Iraq, as well as a more formidable military. That makes the likelihood of a U.S. strike against Iran's nuclear facilities low. So despite the risks that economic sanctions could backfire, some U.S. officials hope tough ones could slowly erode support for the unpopular Tehran theocracy.

Ambivalent Allies

That would require cooperation from European allies, who are willing to help -- to a point. They postponed a trade pact with Iran and backed condemnation of Tehran by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But they're not ready to follow the U.S. in threatening to strangle the country economically unless Tehran disarms. "It's not an economy that's on its knees," notes Steven Everts, a researcher at the Center for European Reform in London. The Europeans might support targeted sanctions on the oil and gas industry and tourism. But Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage told BusinessWeek on Sept. 1 that the U.N. Security Council has little enthusiasm for sanctions. He wonders whether anything can stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power. "The dream of being a player on a large stage is in the breast of most Iranians," he says.

Things also look dicey on the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. plan to draw China and other regional powers into talks to pressure North Korea on nuclear arms has yielded few tangible results. And a U.S. offer of incentives to Pyongyang is falling flat.

Experts fear the threat of U.S. military action could bolster strongman Kim Jong Il's insistence on maintaining nuclear capability. "Dismantlement of [the] nuclear program would seriously undermine his power base," says Kim Sung Han of Seoul's Institute of Foreign Affairs & National Security. Bush will have to rely on China, which has kept Pyongyang afloat, to squeeze the regime. While China doesn't want a nuclear Korean Peninsula, it doesn't relish a wave of refugees, either. There's evidence, U.S. officials say, of increasing Chinese dismay with the North, so Beijing could come through.

Given the reality of a world of stateless threats and proliferating weapons, such messy situations are inevitable. But the Bush crew's hot rhetoric -- and the headlong rush into Iraq -- haven't made resolving them any easier. For every Libya, which renounced its weapons program, there's an Iran or North Korea, dictatorships made more paranoid by the fear that someone really is after them.

Strengthening alliances and persuading adversaries that they don't have a bull's-eye on their back may be one way to emerge from this box. Even the President's admirers among Europe's nascent democracies suggest that he may want to lower the temperature. "Bush has to be more careful and tactful in what he says," says Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, a Hungarian member of the European Parliament.

The evidence so far, though, is that Bush will try to hang tough, even as he is forced to make some policy adjustments on the margins. That won't set many hearts aflutter in Paris, Berlin, Moscow, or Beijing. But it is a key to understanding where U.S. foreign policy would actually go -- as opposed to where some would like it to go -- should Bush win reelection."

USATODAY.com - Iran ready to suspend suspect activities before U.N. meeting

USATODAY.com - Iran ready to suspend suspect activities before U.N. meeting: "Iran ready to suspend suspect activities before U.N. meeting
VIENNA, Austria (AP) — Iran has offered to stop some activities linked to uranium enrichment, diplomats said Tuesday. The United States said the move would not stop it from trying to have Tehran hauled before the U.N. Security Council for allegedly trying to make nuclear arms.
The diplomats, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said Iran tentatively agreed to re-impose a freeze on making, testing and assembling centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

Uranium enriched to high levels can be used to make nuclear warheads. At lower levels, enriched uranium can generate power, the only activity Iran asserts it is interested in.

Iran last year agreed to freeze enrichment activities but has since resumed testing, assembling and making centrifuges. Last week it confirmed a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency — the United Nations' nuclear watchdog — that it planned to convert more than 40 tons of raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride, the feed stock for enrichment.

The issue of enrichment is extremely sensitive as the international community tries to determine whether Iran is using its nuclear program for peaceful purposes or trying to make weapons.

U.S. officials are spearheading an effort at an IAEA board of governors meeting opening in Vienna on Monday to have Iran declared in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, a move that could force the U.N. Security Council to take action against Iran.

Enrichment does not fall under treaty obligations, but Tehran has been under international pressure for more than a year to fully renounce enrichment to counterbalance suspicions generated by nearly two decades of clandestine nuclear activities that came to light only two years ago.

Although Iran agreed to suspend its enrichment program almost a year ago, even that commitment — which fell short of a pledge sought by the international community to scrap enrichment — eroded over the subsequent months. Iran confirmed in July that it had resumed building nuclear centrifuges.

In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell brushed aside reports of Iran's newest offer.

Powell said he "would be more interested in seeing Iranian action to stop the steps that they are now embarking upon with respect to the production of materials that, in our judgment, leads to nuclear weapons."

While some European governments hoped to find a solution with Iran through diplomacy, "unfortunately I do not think the response from Iran has been very positive or constructive," Powell said.

"Time is passing, and this is a matter that should go to the Security Council as quickly as possible," Powell said, implying that there was need for economic, political or diplomatic sanctions against Tehran.

In Vienna, one of the diplomats said the Iranian offer was made by Hassan Rowhani, Tehran's top nuclear negotiator, to IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei.

"Rowhani called ElBaradei to tell him that Iran is ready for a (new) freeze," the diplomat said. Rowhani has been lobbying European nations in recent days before the start of the IAEA board meeting, which will focus on Iran's nuclear program.

"There have been discussions between the two, but the devil is in the detail," another Western diplomat told the AP, emphasizing that no dates or other specifics have been set by the Iranians and ElBaradei, and talks continued on how to verify any renewed suspension.

A third diplomat familiar with the IAEA said he was expecting a deal to be reached before Monday, when the board meeting opens.

Two of the three diplomats said the renewed suspension pledge did not extend to the production of uranium hexafluoride as far as they knew.

Experts estimate that the 40 tons of uranium Iran said it would convert would yield more than 200 pounds of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium — hypothetically enough to make five crude nuclear weapons."

Shariatmadari & Khatami to leave for CIS countries today

Description of Selected News: "Khatami to leave for CIS countries today


TEHRAN (IRNA) -- President Mohammad Khatami is scheduled to visit the Republics of Armenia, Belarus and Tajikistan from September 8-14, the Presidential Office announced on Tuesday.

Heading a high-ranking delegation, Khatami will visit the countries at the official invitation of his counterparts Robert Kocharian, Aleksandr Lukashenko and Emamali Rahmonov of Armenia, Belarus and Tajikistan respectively.

During his visit to Armenia, Khatami and senior Armenian officials will discuss bilateral relations, regional issues, promoting mutual cooperation in all areas, energy and transportation in particular.

Implementing Tehran-Minsk bilateral agreements, regional and international issues will top the agenda of Khatami's talks in Belarus.

A number of new agreements in the fields of customs, economy and agriculture will be signed between Iran and Belarus. Khatami will deliver a speech at the Academy of Sciences of Belarus.

On his second visit to Tajikistan, Khatami and Tajik officials will discuss ways of consolidating trade, economic and cultural relations between the two countries.

On last day of his visit, Khatami will take part in the summit of the member states of the Economic cooperation Organization (ECO).

Khatami, on his visits, will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Safdar Hosseini and Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari.

Armenia, Belarus and Tajikistan are members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) which was formed by twelve former Soviet republics."