Iran's offer of nuclear know-how to Islamic countries alarms UN

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The Independent Online

Diplomats in New York agreed the refusal by Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment programme, in spite of repeated appeals from Britain, France and Germany, was the dominant theme among prime ministers and presidents. Talks between EU foreign ministers and Iran's President and the Foreign Minister here did not go well, sources confirmed. The mood darkened significantly when the new Iranian leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was reported to have said after talks with his Turkish counterpart that Iran was "ready to transfer nuclear know-how to the Islamic countries due to their need".

This set off alarm bells in Washington especially, although some sources said that his remarks may have been mistranslated.

Last night, leaders were to adopt a 40-page document charting the next chapter of the UN, which turns 60 this year. The document recommits Western nations to meeting the Millennium Development Goals to cut poverty and includes new initiatives, including creating a new Peace-Building Commission and replacing the discredited Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

But no one pretended that leaders got close to adopting the sweeping proposals for reform originally sought by the secretary general, Kofi Annan.

Two countries, Venezuela and Cuba, were expected to distance themselves from the final document, meaning it could not be adopted by consensus. Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President, drew warm applause for a speech that lambasted President George Bush and proposed moving the UN headquarters to Palestine.

"Mr Bush represents the most crude and savage imperialism that threatens the world," Mr Chavez said in New York.

What happens next with Iran may largely hinge on an address President Ahmadinejad will make to the UN's General Assembly in this afternoon. Some reports say he may change tactics, still refusing to give up his nuclear programme but offering to create joint ventures with Western companies so outsiders can ensure from within that the technology Iran has is used for power generation only.