Hope Springs Eternal from Annan on Iran

The Europeans and maybe even the Russians have concluded that Iran's decision to break the seals placed on its nuclear facilities by UN inspectors is cause for serious international concern and a likely referral to the UN Security Council. As detailed here, the sounds emanating from the regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are worrying indeed.

Yet if his language today is any indication, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, charged with primary global responsibility for peace and security, is going soft on Tehran. Reuters reports that Annan said:

Iran is still interested in "serious and constructive negotiations" with the European Union on its nuclear program, so long as the talks don't go on too long

The only viable solution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear intentions was "a negotiated one," Annan said.

He said he had been talking to all sides in the dispute and felt the matter should remain for now before the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Once that process was exhausted, the matter could yet end up before the U.N. Security Council, where it would be up to the council's 15 members to decide how to proceed, he said.

Amid menacing acts by an Iranian regime that seems oblivious to international opinion, while it may be important for Annan to distance himself from the governments that are taking the hardest line, he should not be in the position of comforting Iran that nothing tougher than more negotiations will result from its provocations.

This is the kind of position that plays into the hands of UN critics who accuse the body of being a talkshop that shies away from the world's most serious threats.