ALTHOUGH the idea of there being a European Union foreign policy is anathema to diehard Eurosceptics, the reality is that the outline of one is slowly taking place even without ratification of the European constitution by all member states. The evidence of this is the role that Britain, France and Germany have together played in the difficult negotiations with Iran over that country's nuclear programme. The E3, as they have come to be known, have followed a line quite different from the United States which believes that Iran is hell-bent on developing a nuclear weapons capability and does not believe Iranian insistence that it wants no more than to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes, especially the generation of energy. The difficulty for Washington is to say what it would do if Iran were shown to be moving towards weapons production; it is surely inconceivable that the military option would be acceptable after the Iraq debacle. Jack Straw and his fellow foreign ministers from France and Germany are probably not 100 per cent convinced of the assurances given by Iran but have decided on the course of diplomacy in the belief that the pressures it can exert will in the end persuade the Iranians of the value of staying within the provisions of the Nuclear Non–Proliferation Treaty. Thus far, despite moments of considerable difficulty, they have been proved right and the International Atomic Energy Authority has backed their judgement. Predictably, Washington's reaction has been to call for a new director of the Authority when the term of the present incumbent, Dr Mohammed ElBaradei, ends in three years. The Bush administration's problem is that it cannot seem to function internationally unless it is dealing with ”Yes men”.


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