The Canadian-hosted G8 meeting this summer should endorse
negotiations with Iran to deal with its controversial nuclear
ambitions, says a top non-proliferation expert.

“The key message
that must come out of the G8 is that the door must be kept open to
negotiations,” Gareth Evans, co-chair of the International Commission
of Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, said in an interview

“We shouldn't assume that Iran is hell-bent on crossing the red line and actually building weapons.”


the same time, Evans said, the G8 must take a hard line - one that
should also include pushing sanctions - to send a message to Iran for
flouting international organizations such as the United Nations
Security Council and the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International
Atomic Energy Agency.

Evans acknowledged that the G8 must balance two seemingly contradictory positions in dealing with Iran.

real necessity - and maybe it's too much to expect the G8 to reflect
this nuance - is to do two things simultaneously,” said Evans, a former
Australian foreign minister, and ex-head of the International Crisis

“We can't ignore the reality that we're putting at risk
the credibility of international institutions if there is no response
to bad behaviour.”

Evans was in Ottawa as part of an exhaustive
round of anti-nuclear globetrotting. The commission was created two
years ago reinvigorate interest in ridding the world of nuclear
weapons. He was to meet with bureaucrats involved in G8 planning, as
well as MPs from all parties.

Canada has made nuclear
non-proliferation one of its key agenda items when it hosts G8 leaders
June 25-26 in Huntsville, Ont., for their annual summit.

How to
deal with the rogue nuclear states of Iran and North Korea will be high
on the agenda as it was when G8 foreign ministers met last month in
Gatineau, Que.

The foreign ministers placed more emphasis on
sanctions than opening a round of dialogue with Tehran, but they left
talks open as a possibility.

Like its Western allies, Canada
does not believe Iran when it says it wants only peaceful nuclear
energy, and believes its nuclear ambitions are rooted in trying to
build a nuclear weapons' arsenal.

Western countries are pushing
for a fourth round of sanctions to punish Iran, but it remains to be
seen whether China, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council,
would support the call.

Non-permanent members of the council, such as Brazil, are pushing for a diplomatic solution.

recently spoke with Brazilian President Luiz InDacio da Silva about his
coming trip to Tehran that will attempt to open a new channel of

The Canadian government rarely misses an opportunity
to come down hard on Iran, most often for human-rights violations, and
for its pursuit of uranium enrichment.

Evans applauded Canada
for highlighting non-proliferation at the G8 and called 2010 a
“watershed year” for ridding the world of nukes. He cited U.S.
President Barack Obama's pursuit of a nuclear-weapons-free world and
the recent arms-reduction treaty between Moscow and Washington.

U.S.-hosted meetings this spring on strengthening the non-proliferation
legal regime have added to that momentum, as will anything the G8 says
this June in Huntsville, said Evans.

But the main players in
pursuit of a world free of weapons of mass destruction remain the
Americans and Russians, he said, since they hold most of the nuclear
warheads on the planet.

“The truth of the matter is that the
U.S. and Russia are basically going to call the shots on this issue and
the rest of us are spectators to this process, but there are other
dynamics also in play,” said Evans.

“This has to be peer group
pressure. If Canada, like Australia, can go back playing its
traditional roles as a mobilizer of global sentiment as a middle-power
country, it can play a very important role indeed.”

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