October 17, 2007 / 3:15 PM / 12 years ago

U.S. ambassador raps Norway for dialogue with Iran

OSLO (Reuters) - The U.S. ambassador to Norway said on Wednesday that Oslo’s dialogue with Iran risked helping to legitimize policies of the Iranian government.

Ambassador Benson Whitney said his remarks were meant as “constructive suggestions” to a close and valued ally.

Whitney said he respected Norway’s tradition of dialogue in response to international conflict, but added it should also consider other “tools of international engagement”.

“These tools run the spectrum from dialogue to incentives to sanctions and indeed, sometimes, force,” he said in his speech at the Nobel Institute in the Norwegian capital.

“Continued dialogue can, in certain circumstances, actually have negative consequences,” he said.

He said dialogue could let an “ill-intended nation or group” gain legitimacy, delay meaningful action or undermine legitimate opposition, adding: “Iran represents an urgent example.”

Norway has maintained ties with Iran and resisted U.S. pressure for stiffer sanctions to curb Teheran’s nuclear ambitions. It says isolating Iran further could backfire.

Whitney told Reuters: “These issues are hard — the engagement with countries like Iran or North Korea or Burma is complex and difficult, and each nation has to decide which tools to use to achieve the goal.”

He said the world had to decide how to dissuade Iran from violating U.N. Security Council resolutions which, he noted, “it so far has done.”

“The question is when Iran comes to Norway are they coming in order to engage in genuine compromise and progress? Or do they want to come to Norway to gain legitimacy to say they are not isolated in the world,” Whitney asked.

“I do not have a lot of trust and faith in the good faith of the Iranian government, but I cannot know for sure,” he added.

He said the United States and Norway should work together to provide leadership and address changing global threats such as terrorism, climate change, trafficking and disease.

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