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British Prime Minister Tony Blair (file photo) (epa)
March 16, 2006 -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair today called for action to resolve Iran's nuclear dispute, saying the international community "cannot walk away" from dealing with the issue.
Speaking ahead of a UN Security Council meeting set to discuss Tehran's nuclear program, Blair said there was no point sending the matter to the international body "unless something is going to follow as a result of that."
Britain is one of three European Union member-states that have been trying to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear enrichment activities. The other two are France and Germany.
Despite Tehran's claims to the contrary, both the EU and the United States fear Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ari Larijani, today said that the ongoing standoff should be dealt with by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, not by the Security Council.
Economic sanctions could further undermine Iran's already shaky economy (Fars)
MOVING TOWARD SANCTIONS: If the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran, domestic support for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad will wane, according to ALEX VATANKA, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group.
Vatanka told a February 24 RFE/RL briefing that "economic sanctions will hurt the average Iranian" and, consequently, many "will blame the ruling clerics" for making life difficult and "impairing the country's long term development."
Vatanka said sanctions would be a serious challenge to the Iranian government. If harsh economic sanctions were imposed, Iran's poorest population will be hurt the hardest -- and might react "as they did in the 1970s and protest in the streets." Sanctions on travel, Vatanka said, would hurt a many Iranians because "Iran is a nation of small traders" who depend on the ability to travel to earn an income. According to Vatanka, unemployment in Iran is estimated at 30 percent, "so small trading is essential to survival." Although current U.S. sanctions "haven't worked," he said, "Iranians fear an oil embargo." He stressed that "oil revenues are a major part of the economy, so it is critical to look at this sector."
Should negotiations with the European Union and the UN fail, Vatanka believes that Iran would follow a "North Korea model," since Ahmadinejad's base of support among the "Islamist militias" has been "urging withdrawal from the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]." The Iranian government's "tactic" so far, Vatanka said, is governed by the belief that "by shouting the loudest, you'll get concessions [from the West]."
Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 60 minutes):
THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's coverage of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
CHRONOLOGY An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.