[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 March, 2004, 14:16 GMT
Throwing down the nuclear gauntlet
By Jonathan Marcus
BBC Defence correspondent

Iran is presenting a fundamental challenge to the Bush administration's diplomacy.

Model of the Bushehr nuclear plant
Under scrutiny: Reporters look at a model of Iran's nuclear plant

Its foreign minister has said that once relations with the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, are "normalised", Iran will resume its uranium enrichment activities.

The United States firmly believes that Iran has no real need for a nuclear power programme and is intent on gathering the building-blocks for a nuclear weapon.

America's European allies share many of its concerns, but not Washington's certainty.

They have encouraged the Bush administration to pursue a multilateral approach to dealing with Iran, by offering more carrot than stick as it cajoles and encourages Tehran to open up all of its nuclear activities to international inspection.

So far, all the signs coming from the IAEA meeting in Vienna suggest the US is willing to go along with this approach.

Confrontation coming?

But the threats from the Iranian Foreign Minister to resume uranium enrichment activities will not be viewed as helpful.

Such a capability is seen as an essential element in a free-standing weapons programme, though Iran insists that its enrichment programme is for peaceful purposes.

Kamal Karrazi
Foreign minister Karrazi says Iran is entitled to a nuclear programme

That will not cut much ice in Washington, but nor will Mr Bush relish a showdown with Iran in an election year.

Some argue that, in the wake of the invasion of Iraq and the continuing strain on US resources, a new more conciliatory foreign policy is emerging in Washington.

This - a kind of Bush Mark II - is more explicitly multilateral.

And the administration's approach to Iran is perhaps a good example of this eagerness to act with allies.

But there are limits. Critics say the Bush administration has lost none of its ideological edge.

Going along with the Europeans on Iran may be convenient for now.

But Iran's own actions could profoundly test this new Bush approach, leading to a much more confrontational position.

Iran set for UN nuclear censure
09 Mar 04  |  Middle East
US blasts Iran nuclear 'stories'
08 Mar 04  |  Middle East
Iran signs up to nuclear checks
18 Dec 03  |  Middle East
Q&A: Iran's nuclear programme
18 Dec 03  |  Middle East

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific