US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has arrived in London where she will attend a series of meetings on Iran, the Middle East and Afghanistan. Along with the European Union, Washington wants to persuade Russia and China to refer Tehran to the UN Security council over its disputed nuclear programme.
Rice’s visit comes just three days ahead of a crucial session by the UN nuclear watchdog in Vienna. Western nations suspect Iran of planning to use its nuclear technology to develop atomic bombs. Tehran says its programme is meant only for peaceful purposes. On Sunday, Iran’s foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki reiterated his commitment to dialogue saying it is the only way to defuse the crisis, and urged European countries not to make any hasty decisions regarding Iran. The same day, hundreds of Iranians demonstrated outside a major uranium conversion plant in the central city of Isfahan to protest against growing international pressure on Iran’s nuclear programme. Students joined the demonstrators forming a human chain stretching along the factory’s fences, brandishing banners that read: “The use of peaceful nuclear technology is the right of the Iranian people”.