AFP, DAVOS, Switzerland: Pakistan is exerting behind the scenes pressure on Iran to compromise in its acrimonious dispute with Europe and the United States over its nuclear programme, Pakistani diplomatic sources say.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri passed on their concerns during a meeting at the weekend with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi.
Kasuri, for his part, said Pakistan supported negotiations led by Britain, France and Germany, to reach a lasting deal that would allay US charges that Iran is covertly developing nuclear weapons.
“We feel the role the (EU three) are playing is positive, because we feel that a peaceful resolution to this dispute is highly desirable,” Kasuri told AFP on the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“Being their neighbours, and already with the Iraq situation being what it is, we wouldn't want another turmoil on our border,” he said. “We paid a big price” in Afghanistan.
“We don't want a similar destabilisation on our border again, so we have a vested interest in a peaceful resolution of this dispute.”
Pakistan is worried about a spike in tensions on its western border, after becoming embroiled in the conflict in Afghanistan on its eastern side.
The sources said the ministers “tried to convey the European position” to Kharazi during Friday's meeting.
Pakistani officials say that Tehran has been warned “bluntly, bordering on rudeness,” of their concerns and urged “not to make the mistake” of ignoring the Europeans.
“We have not minced our words,” a diplomatic source said.
The UN atomic energy agency has been investigating Iran for two years. US President George W. Bush warned earlier this month that he would not rule out using military action if European diplomacy fails to secure Iran's agreement not to seek nuclear weapons.
Iran has suspended uranium enrichment, the key process that makes fuel for nuclear reactors but also the explosive core of atomic bombs, under an accord clinched by the EU three in November.
Talks between the trio and Tehran on a more comprehensive plan that would include economic ties are continuing, amid reports that the bloc has hardened its stance to urge Iran to dismantle its nuclear fuel programme totally.
Underlining the complexities, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the EU three Saturday to take the negotiations seriously, threatening otherwise to reconsider what the IAEA has said is “good cooperation.”
“We were recently in Brussels and we had lengthy discussions on the entire regional situation” with EU leaders, Kasuri said, alluding to a January 24-26 visit by a Pakistani delegation led by Aziz.
“We support the European approach.”
“We have very good relations with Iran,” he went on. “We have been telling our Iranian friends of the concerns of the international community, but they themselves are aware of it. We can't play a bigger role.”
Nevertheless, Tehran's top nuclear negotiator, Hasan Rowhani, told Iran's conservative Mehr news agency Saturday that “under no circumstances” would it give up uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes.
He said negotiators “know that Iran is firm on its decisions and I do not think the Europeans want the negotiations to reach a dead end.”
Earlier this month, Pakistan denied a report in a US magazine that it was helping US special forces target suspected weapons sites in Iran for possible air strikes.