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US "wrong" about feasibility of EU deal with Iran, says UK's Straw

London, Jan 19, IRNA -- British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw Wednesday dismissed reports that the US may be contemplating military action against Iran while saying that Washington was wrong to be skeptical about the EU being able to reach a deal on Iran's nuclear program.

"Those who said we'd be split apart by the Iranians are wrong," Straw said. "Those who said we would not be able to negotiate any substantial text (with the Iranians) are wrong," he said in an interview with the Financial Times.

The foreign secretary was further dismissive of a criticism by some Washington officials of the approach adopted by Britain, France and Germany that led to the signing of the Paris Agreement on Iran's nuclear program in November.

"Those who said we could not build up a degree of trust with the Iranians -- at the same time as building up a strong consensus with the US and the non-aligned countries -- are wrong," he insisted.

Straw said that it had taken a "phenomenal amount of work" to reach the stage of starting long-term arrangements between the EU and Iran, but said that it was "so far so good" and that it was "a better strategy than the alternative."

He was said to have also "laughed off" at suggestions in the US that the Pentagon was covertly drawing up plans for strikes against targets in Iran.

"You will always find somebody in Washington thinking about something. That's how things are there," said Straw. He had previously said that the possibility of any attack being launched by the US, or by its proxy Israel, was "inconceivable."

His latest comments come ahead of the foreign secretary's first official meeting in Washington with the incoming US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Asked whether her appointment would mark a change in US foreign policy, Straw played down hopes of those expecting a fundamental shift, but insisted that President George W. Bush clearly wanted to work with the European countries.

"Bush has made clear he wants a better understanding and rapport with his European partners and through diplomacy reinforce America's diplomatic reach," he said.

The foreign secretary suggested that the central test for the US and the rest of the international community will be handling the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Everybody hopes this (the latest tension between Israel and the Palestinians) will be very temporary. And there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make sure that it is," he said.

With regard to Iraq's planned elections on January 30, Straw admitted that they would be "imperfect," but said that the obvious factor was "the higher the turn-out, the greater the legitimacy" while accepting that "the reverse is also true."

He believed that the Sunni majority would have to be brought into agreeing Iraq's new constitution once the poll is over.

"The crucial thing is to develop a voting system and constitution that is inclusive of the minority," he said.

... Payvand News - 1/19/05 ... --

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