Monday, November 29, 1999

ANALYSIS - U.S. shares blame for Brazil, Turkey votes on Iran

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The U.S. dismissal of Brazilian and Turkish diplomatic efforts in Tehran may have helped push the two nations to vote against a new round of U.N. sanctions for Iran, Western diplomats and analysts said.Senior Western diplomats, who insisted that they not be identified, said it was unlikely that Brazil and Turkey could have been persuaded to vote 'yes' for a fourth sanctions resolution against Iran over its nuclear program, but their 'no' votes might have been avoidable.The council passed the resolution last week with 12 'yes' votes, including all five veto powers -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China. Ankara and Brasilia voted against it and Lebanon abstained. It was the first time any council members had opposed Iran sanctions."It's always hard to say what would have happened if we'd have done this or that differently, we don't know" a diplomat said. "But things could have been handled differently."Analysts have said that the Brazilian and Turkish votes against the sanctions were unfortunate and signaled to the world that the council is divided on Iran.The biggest mistake, diplomats and analysts said, was the way U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced on May 18 that Washington would circulate on that day a draft sanctions resolution on Iran that had been agreed by the five permanent Security Council members and Germany -- the "P5-plus-one"."This announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide," Clinton told a U.S. Senate committee.It was less than 24 hours after Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan joined Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Tehran to revive a stalled nuclear fuel swap deal with Iran which they hoped would remove the need for sanctions.The fuel deal, under which Iran had pledged to send some enriched uranium abroad in return for fuel rods for a medical research reactor, was first agreed in October in Geneva.Tehran, which rejects Western allegations that its wants atomic weapons, later balked at the idea of sending uranium to Russia and France for processing. But as new sanctions loomed, it agreed to an amended Turkish-Brazilian version of the deal.U.S. officials defended Clinton's announcement. They said the draft had largely been agreed among the six long before it went to the full council, though Russia and China did not get a green light from capitals until the weekend of May 14-15.BRAZIL, TURKEY 'THREW THE FIRST STONE'They also said the timing had nothing to do with Turkey and Brazil but was a response to Iran's statement that it would pursue higher-level uranium enrichment without justification."We thought that this was the right time to send a very clear message to Iran that it's on the wrong course and it has to change," said U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. He added that Washington remained "open to any diplomacy that countries like Brazil and Turkey are willing to engage in."He also played down the significance of the no votes, saying the disagreement with Brazil and Turkey was tactical, not strategic.Council diplomats said the problem was less the timing than Clinton's assertion that circulating the draft was an answer to the efforts of Erdogan and Lula, which they said was widely interpreted as a slap in the face of the two U.S. allies."That announcement created a certain amount of acrimony in Turkey and Brazil and left them with little choice but to vote against the sanctions," a senior Western diplomat said."We had always argued that the Turkish and Brazilian initiative was a good thing, that we wanted to support it, but it was separate from the push for sanctions," he said, adding that to "denigrate their efforts was unhelpful, unnecessary."One analyst who also declined to be identified said there was no need to embarrass Turkey and Brazil, which had kept the White House informed about its negotiations with Iran.But David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security said Clinton was no more undiplomatic than Ankara and Brasilia, who "threw the first stone by trying to wreck the sanctions effort. Clinton just threw one back."Turkey and Brazil have faced criticism for their votes. U.S. lawmakers criticized Ankara over Iran and warned that ties with Washington would suffer if it continued on what they called an anti-Israeli path.Several envoys said Turkey's desire to help ease tensions with neighboring Iran was understandable. They said Lula sought to promote himself and Brazil as a diplomatic power.Several P5-plus-one diplomats said they could have held onto the draft for a few days after the fuel deal was signed, but Washington refused. The other five -- including China and Russia -- could have demanded a delay but did not, they said.Envoys said Brazil then decided to vote 'no'. A Turkish abstention was definitively lost, diplomats said, on the morning of June 9 as the Security Council readied the vote.Turkish diplomats told Reuters Ankara decided to oppose the resolution after the United States, Russia and France sent the U.N. nuclear watchdog a response to the fuel deal that essentially dismissed it."With the fuel offer on the table and this response ... we could not have done anything else," a Turkish official said. "It would have been inconsistent with our previous position."(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington and Sylvia Westall in Vienna; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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