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May 13, 2006 at 02:05pm IST

Annan asks US to talk to Iran on N-deal

Vienna, Austria: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday urged the US to ''lower the rhetoric'' in the international standoff over Iran's nuclear program and to join with Europe in resuming talks with Tehran.

French President Jacques Chirac, meanwhile, said France was not against a tough UN Security Council resolution on Iran. But he said any such resolution would not and should not mean automatic use of force.

''Our objective is to have a resolution that may be obeyed,'' Chirac told reporters at an EU-Latin America leaders' summit in the Austrian capital.

IRAN NUKE ROW: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged US to find a resolution to the standoff.

Chirac's comment appeared aimed at reassuring China and Russia, which object to attempts by Britain, France and the United States to draft the Security Council resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which would make it enforceable by sanctions or, if necessary, military action.

''Our objective ... is that we be in a position to impose decisions taken by the Security Council,'' Chirac said when asked if the draft resolution contradicted France's position on the Iran standoff.

French officials have said diplomacy and multilateral talks are the only options for dealing with the standoff.

Chirac noted that the resolution was still being negotiated. But ''we're not against the fact that Chapter 7 be mentioned. It doesn't automatically entail ... force'' or sanctions, he said.

Annan told reporters earlier that he urged all sides to find a resolution to the standoff.

''I have asked all sides to lower the rhetoric and intensify diplomatic efforts to find a solution,'' he said.

''Everyone, every important stakeholder should be at a table,'' Annan said. ''I urge all parties to be open, Iran included, and come back to the table and find a solution.''

Annan said proposed talks between Iran and EU nations Britain, Germany France would be more productive if they included the US.

"I have insisted very clearly both in private in my contacts with the American administration and publicly that I think it's important that the US come to the table, and that they should join the European countries and Iran to find a solution," Annan said.

But Washington has refused to take part in direct negotiations with Tehran.

''This is not a bilateral issue between the US and Iran,'' the US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, said in a statement. ''It is an issue between Iran and the world.

''Our position is clear: We support EU-3 and Russian negotiation efforts. We see no point in direct negotiations,'' he said in New York.

The EU and the US fear Iran's nuclear program is being used to develop nuclear weapons.

Tehran said the program is peaceful and designed to generate nuclear power.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters he will hold talks with his British and French counterparts Monday in Brussels.

''There is a common sense that we should pass a (Security Council) resolution,'' Steinmeier said.

At the same time it is necessary ''to pave the way for the resumption of negotiations,'' he said.

''That can only be done in signaling the leaders in Tehran where the advantages of cooperation with the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency lie,'' Steinmeier said. ''That is what we are working on right now.''

On Tuesday, representatives of the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany agreed to inform Iran about the possible consequences of its refusal to halt uranium enrichment and the benefits if it abandons it.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that she and her counterparts on the UN Security Council agreed to give Iran another two weeks to reconsider its position.

Both China and Russia have refused to sign on to any UN resolution declaring Iran a threat to international peace and security and setting the stage for further measures, which could range from breaking diplomatic relations to economic sanctions and military action if Tehran refuses to comply.