Iran, which says it needs nuclear power to meet its energy and development needs, resumed some nuclear research in January after a voluntary freeze on these activities for nearly two years in the course of negotiations with the governments of France, Britain, and Germany. Paris, London, and Berlin abruptly declared the negotiations over on January 12 and called for referring Iran to the United Nations Security Council for sanctions, a move hailed by Washington, which accuses Iran of wanting nuclear power in order to develop atomic bombs.
On January 19, French president Jacques Chirac declared, The leaders of states who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using in one way or another weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part…. This response could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind.
Most media interpreted his statements as being directed against Iran. It does not take a lot of imagination to think that he had Iran in mind, even though this was later officially denied by the Elysée, said Wolfang Munchau in a commentary in the January 23 Financial Times.
In the United States, top Democratic Party politicians went out of their way to be more hawkish against Tehran than the White House.
Speaking at Princeton University January 18, Sen. Hillary Clinton (Democrat, New York) accused the Bush administration of being too slow to move against Iran. The White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations, she charged. We cannot and should notmust notpermit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons, Clinton said, according to the Daily Princetonian. In order to prevent that from occurring, we must have more support vigorously and publicly expressed by China and Russia, and we must move as quickly as feasible for sanctions in the United Nations. She did not discount a military strike against Iran, stating, We cannot take any option off the table in sending a clear message to the current leadership of Iran that they will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons.
The Democratic senator also opposed the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and placed the onus on the Palestinian people for the continued conflict with Israel. No more excuses for the Palestinians, Clinton said. They have to demonstrate clearly and unequivocally their commitment to a peaceful future and they have to also demonstrate their ability to deliver services to their people.
Joseph Lieberman, Democratic candidate for vice president in 2000, said, Its good that were working with Britain, France and Germany, but their pace is too slow. He called for Irans nuclear program to be referred immediately to the United Nations Security Council. Interviewed on CBS TV January 22, he added, Weve got to be prepared to take military action.
Sen. John McCain (Republican, Arizona) told Fox News, Theres only one thing worse than the United States exercising the military option, and that is Iran having nuclear weapons.
In light of these threats, the Iranian government has begun transferring currency reserves in European banks to other locations. Ebrahim Sheibani, the Central Bank governor, said Iran would transfer the foreign exchange reserves wherever we consider expedient.
The Iranian government also called on members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to reduce production by 1 million barrels a day. Iran is the worlds fourth-largest oil exporter and the second largest in OPEC.
Responding to Chiracs threat of a nuclear attack, the speaker of Irans parliament, Gholam Ali Hadad-Adel, said the French president was trying to restore the prestige of France after the recent unrest, when young people took to the streets and torched hundreds of cars every night, a reference to the protests in France of thousands of North African youth, many of them Muslims, against the racist abuse they face. The French need to make an effort to remove the shame of the massacre of millions of Algerians, Frances support for Saddam Hussein and the massacres in Africa and Rwanda, Hadad-Adel said, in a speech broadcast on state radio.
The Iranian daily Jomhuri Islami said Chiracs remarks mean the French government would use the atomic bomb to oppress the ones who seek liberty…. Everybody knows they label anyone who opposes their exploitative and colonial demands as terrorists, and that any country sheltering such people and support[ing] them is named a supporter of terrorists…. [Chirac] has unveiled the true face of the West.
NATO soldiers in Afghanistan to undertake robust military action
Protests target UN/French troops in Ivory Coast
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