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Iran nuke revelations overshadow G-20 summit

News today that the G-20 has officially replaced the G-8 as "the world's premier economic forum," in the words of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, was quickly -- and dramatically -- overshadowed by the revelation that Iran has a second, covert uranium enrichment facility.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, speaking to reporters here in Pittsburgh, said that "we must have answers from Iran" about its nuclear program by the Oct. 1 meeting of the P5+1, the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany. Any decisions about what to do vis-a-vis Iran would not be made before that meeting, he said.

"It's the third time they've been caught red-handed," Brown said. "There has been serial deception over many years."

The prime minister wouldn't get into specifics about what sorts of penalities Iran might face should it fail to comply, but indicated that if sanctions are needed, they will "clearly be of a banking nature" and would "involve energy" and new restrictions on technologies that could be used for nuclear purposes.

"I think the IAEA will see that there is a breach of regulations," Brown said. According to the evidence he'd seen, "this could not have been for a civil nuclear facility," because the "level of production was not sufficient for a civil nuclear facility but could have been intended for a nuclear facility."

On the G-20, Brown made a more sweeping statement than either Korea's Lee or Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who earlier insisted that "we are not replacing the G-8 with the G-20."

"The old systems of economic cooperation are over," Brown said. Canada is due to host both the G-8 and the G-20 next year, in cooperation with South Korea, and Harper said that the G-8 would become more of a forum for discussing development issues, security issues, and, "for lack of a better word, geopolitics."

Brown said that the G-20 today would be issuing a "very strong view on remuneration," a somewhat peripheral issue that has nonetheless dominated discussions surrounding the summit, on the insistence of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"We cannot be soft on these issues," Brown said some passion. "We have got to be tough … we will not condone the old system of bonuses … there is no return to the bad old days."

Brown also announced that G-20 leaders had agreed that it would be "premature" to remove the fiscal and monetary stimulus measures put in place over the past year, saying that "millions of jobs" would be at stake if countries acted too quickly.

Nevertheless, he said, "The action that we took at the London Summit [in April] has worked."

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