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Nuclear hopes drive caution on Iran

July 9, 2009

Group of Eight leaders were divided last night on whether to take a tough approach on Iran’s crackdown on opposition protesters, weighing the risk of jeopardising possible talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

At issue was whether the leaders would make a united condemnation of Iran. But diplomats said the heads of government were unlikely to move further than a statement issued by their foreign ministers in mid-June, which deplored the violence in Iran and expressed “solidarity” with peaceful demonstrators contesting the results of the presidential elections.

Franco Frattini, Italy’s foreign minister, said: “We will find the right wording,” but indicated that there would not be a call for stronger sanctions against Iran.

It remained to be seen whether the G8 would join the European Union in demanding the release of detained Iranian staff of the UK embassy and a French academic.

Kazuo Kodama, a spokesman for the Japanese government, said Iran would be told that “time is not unlimited” for it to halt its suspected nuclear weapons programme.

G8 foreign ministers meeting in June said the nuclear issue would be reviewed again in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. They reiterated an offer by the EU and the US to engage Iran in talks on its nuclear programme, indicating that western nations were prepared to put a more attractive offer on the table in exchange for a halt or at least reduction of its uranium enrichment programme.

Russia has told its G8 allies that it opposes moves that would lead to isolation of Iran.

Stronger language was being prepared last night for North Korea, which was set to be condemned for its recent nuclear and missile tests. China’s crackdown on Muslim Uighur protesters in Xinjiang was expected to be discussed but once again Russia was unlikely to join in a condemnation.

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