US joins UN council at Iran dinner in New York

Iran`s foreign minister held a rare meeting with the United States and other Security Council members on Thursday.

New York: Iran`s foreign minister held a rare meeting with the United States and other Security Council members on Thursday as Tehran faces the possibility of new UN sanctions over its nuclear program.

UN ambassadors of the United States, Britain, France and Russia did not attend the dinner meeting with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki organised by Iran`s UN mission, but sent lower level diplomats. Washington was represented by Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff.

Most other council members sent ambassadors to the dinner at the Iranian ambassador`s residence in Manhattan. They included Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong, the only chief of mission from the five permanent council members to attend.

Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu indicated there had been no concrete outcome. "We are not here to negotiate, we are here to exchange frank general ideas," he told reporters through an interpreter. "There was no talk about sanctions. What is important is that most Security Council members are here."

He added that Mottaki reiterated Iran`s position "that it has the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy”.

Wolff declined to comment except to say that "the dinner was very good”. Other envoys left without speaking to journalists.

Washington does not have formal diplomatic relations with Iran and rarely participates in meetings with Iranian officials outside of the United Nations.

It was not immediately clear when a US diplomat last attended a dinner or reception hosted by Iran.

"We see this as an opportunity for Iran to show the council that they`re prepared to play by the rules and meet their obligations," a US official said before Thursday`s dinner, to explain why Washington was taking part.

"Iran has been offered many opportunities to prove the peaceful nature of its nuclear program," the official added.

"This meeting is another indication of the lengths the Iranians are going to make their case," he said. "They clearly recognise that the ongoing efforts in the Security Council and elsewhere are isolating them and doing them harm."

Bureau Report