Wednesday, May 17, 2006

SCO Invites Iran to Its Summit on June 15

This is extremely good news -- the best news about Iran that I've heard in months:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday Iran has been invited as an observer to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's summit due on June 15.

"The invitation has already been sent," he said.

At present, the UN Security Council is studying the International Atomic Energy Agency director-general's report on Iran's nuclear problem.

"The IAEA will meet in session in two weeks' time," Lavrov said. (Itar-Tass, "SCO Invites Iran to Its Summit on June 15 -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov," 16 May 2006)
Iran's recent announcement that it intends to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) could complicate Western efforts to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Iran now has observer status at the SCO, but it hopes membership could come as early as June. Although SCO membership is no foregone conclusion -- and does not include mutual defense pledges -- being inside the Shanghai "club" could bring Tehran extra support from its two key members: Russia and China.

PRAGUE, May 15, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Membership of the SCO could offer Iran shelter from the intense U.S.-led international pressure on Tehran to end uranium enrichment.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mohammadi was quoted by ITAR-TASS and Xinhua news agencies as saying in April that his country hopes to join the SCO this summer. He said Iran is looking forward to reviewing the nuclear dispute with its SCO "colleagues." Mohammadi said Tehran hopes for those countries' support at the organization's June summit in Shanghai.

"What we are seeing is really a tectonic shift of diplomatic and every other kind of activity into Western and Central Asia."

Russia and China have already given Tehran crucial support in the United Nations debate over its controversial nuclear program. Both have resisted pressure from the United States and its European allies to formulate a UN draft resolution that could open the way for economic sanctions or even military intervention unless Iran stops work on the nuclear fuel cycle. (Breffni O'Rourke, "Iran: Plans to Join Shanghai Group Seen as Bold Geopolitical Stroke," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 15 May 2006)

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