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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Day After Nuclear Deal, Iran Is Cleared to Start W.T.O. Process - New York Times

Day After Nuclear Deal, Iran Is Cleared to Start W.T.O. Process - New York TimesMay 26, 2005
Day After Nuclear Deal, Iran Is Cleared to Start W.T.O. Process
By TOM WRIGHT
International Herald Tribune

GENEVA, May 26 - Members of the World Trade Organization agreed today to allow Iran to begin membership talks, with the United States dropping its opposition after Tehran promised to continue its freeze on nuclear activities.

The opportunity to join the body, which sets global trade rules, is likely to be seen as a reward to Iran for its pledge to European negotiators Wednesday not to push ahead with threats to restart its nuclear enrichment program.

The foreign ministers of Britain, France and German met with the Iranians in Geneva on Wednesday. A European Union negotiator had said that no specific incentives were brought up at the meeting, but that the Europeans agreed to present Iran with detailed proposals by early August at the latest on how to move toward consensus on Iran's nuclear program.

In Paris last November, Iran agreed to suspend all of its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities while it negotiated the economic, nuclear, political and security benefits it would receive.

Mohammad Reza Alborzi, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said at a closed-door session of the trade group's General Council, "Today, this house, with this decision, has done service to itself by correcting a wrong,"

He added: "We have a forward-looking approach to our accession process. Iran has substantive and extensive trade relations with nearly all states present here."

Mr. Alborzi also played down any connection between the trade membership talks and the nuclear talks.

"We don't see it that way, and I don't think that the W.T.O. sees it that way," he was quoted as saying by Reuters. "Trade issues are trade issues."

But before the meeting today, the news agency also quoted a senior official in Washington as saying the Americans would not block Iran's membership bid "in support of the diplomacy of our European friends."

The United States trade representative to the trade organization, Linnet Deily, attended the meeting today of the W.T.O.'s General Council, where the decision was made.

Neither Ms. Deily nor other American trade representatives in Washington or Brussels were available for comment.

The United States, which accuses Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, has vetoed its efforts to join the trade group since its first application in 1996.

But the United States softened that position earlier this year, saying it would support Iran's entry and consider sales of commercial aircraft parts if Iran permanently stopped uranium enrichment.

The trade organization agreed to set up a working group to look further into Iran's possible membership, said Fabien Delcros, a spokesman for the European Commission's mission to the group, who was at the meeting. No time frame was set for the talks, he added.

A number of other countries, including Russia, are also on the waiting list to join the trade group, a process that can take years. It took China, which joined in 2001, more than 15 years of talks before becoming a member. The process has always taken at least three years, the group said.

The 148 member states of the General Council make decisions by consensus.

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