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Senator Slams 'Phony Negotiations' With Iran

Thursday, 14 September 2006 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -– The United States and its European partners "should end phony negotiations" with Iran over its nuclear program, an influential U.S. senator up for re-election this November said Thursday.

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who has been trailing his Democratic challenger, Bob Casey, in opinion polls until recently, said the United States should "increase sanctions" on Iran and "fund, promote and support the pro-democracy movement, both inside and outside Iran."

Speaking with Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., and Reza Pahlavi, son of the former shah of Iran, Santorum called for "free and fair elections" in Iran, and blasted the Iranian regime for "continued action against our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Santorum is the original co-sponsor of the Iran Freedom Support Act, which passed the House overwhelmingly earlier this year and currently has 61 co-sponsors in the Senate. The bill calls for increased sanctions on Iran, and authorizes the State Department to spend up to $10 million per year to assist pro-democracy groups inside Iran and in exile.

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., blocked similar legislation earlier this year by convincing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to negotiate with Tehran, not impose sanctions.

"This regime has shown it cannot be trusted," said Pahlavi, who called on Congress to "send a signal" to Tehran and to the Iranian opposition by passing the Santorum legislation.

"We have given diplomacy every chance, and exhausted them," he said, referring to negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. "The only course that remains is to invest in the people of Iran."

Pahlavi urged the United States "not to cut any deals with the regime," and said that U.S. support for the pro-democracy movement would unleash "a dramatic change" inside Iran.

Just as Pahlavi was appearing at the U.S. Senate with Santorum and Martinez, less than a mile away George Soros and other opponents of the Bush administration were meeting at the Hyatt hotel to urge the administration to cut a deal with Tehran.

Addressing a conference that was spearheaded by the New America Foundation, Soros spoke of a "grand bargain" with Tehran that would involve U.S. recognition of Iran, a negotiated end to the nuclear showdown, and a resumption of normal relations between the two countries.

Soros discussed the "grand bargain" with former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami at a private dinner this week in Boston, several sources told NewsMax Thursday.

"Khatami told us that the U.S. must start negotiations with Iran," an Iranian who was present at the dinner said. "He said that Iran was absolutely willing to suspend uranium enrichment -– but not as a precondition to talks."

However, this source added, Khatami said Iran "will not give up enrichment of nuclear fuel" because it does not believe Western promises to supply it with fuel for the Busheir reactor, which has yet to become operational despite 11 years of work by Russian contractors.

"So there is going to be an R&D program, and if you are not willing to accept that, there can be no grand bargain," this source said.

Steven Clemens, director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, also attended the Khatami dinner with Soros and confirmed those remarks.

The United States has argued consistently that Iran cannot be allowed to develop uranium enrichment technology, since the processes and equipment needed to make fuel for a power reactor can also make weapons-grade material.

Khatami's trip to the United States was planned months ago, said Hooman Madj, a freelance journalist and former music promoter who served as Khatami's advisor and translator during his U.S. stay. "It was a sheer coincidence that he landed at the precise moment [on Aug. 31] when the U.N. deadline for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment kicked in."

Madj said Khatami was surprised when he was asked by Americans about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments that Israel should be wiped off the map. "Khatami said that he had never talked about countries being wiped off the map -– but then said that Palestine has been wiped off the map."

Clemens likened a "grand bargain" with Iran over its nuclear program to "a hail Mary pass. It's not easy to accomplish."

When challenged that Iran's clerical leadership has repeatedly rejected U.S. offers of a "grand bargain," including a multi-year effort by President Clinton, an Iranian who had been with Khatami at the dinner with Soros said that the former Iranian president blamed Clinton for the impasse.

"After [then-Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright apologized for U.S. involvement in the 1953 coup" against the government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, "everything was headed toward a rapprochement," the Iranian said. "But Khatami said that Clinton scuttled the deal when he called the Iranian leadership ‘unelected.' That angered the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who has held a grudge against the U.S. ever since."

Larry Wilkerson, a former top deputy to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, blasted the Bush administration for missing opportunities to negotiate with the Tehran regime, and warned that "the military options are grim."

He argued that the U.S., through its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, "has put Iran in the strategic catbird seat" by taking out Tehran's main enemies.

He warned that any military strike on Iran would unite the Iranian people against the U.S., and would provoke Iranian retaliation throughout the Middle East.

"If we use the military instrument, we are going to be in for a horrible shock with the aftermath," Wilkerson said.

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WASHINGTON -- The United States and its European partners "should end phony negotiations" with Iran over its nuclear program, an influential U.S. senator up for re-election this November said Thursday. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who has been trailing his Democratic...
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Thursday, 14 September 2006 12:00 AM
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