Iran General NewsRice praises European plan on Iran

Rice praises European plan on Iran

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AP: A new proposal that European diplomats will soon present to Iran makes plain the international cost of going forward with disputed nuclear development, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday. Associated Press

By ANNE GEARAN

AP Diplomatic Writer

NEW YORK (AP) – A new proposal that European diplomats will soon present to Iran makes plain the international cost of going forward with disputed nuclear development, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday.

The top U.S. diplomat acknowledged that any attempt to punish or coerce Iran through the United Nations Security Council is on hold while Britain, France and Germany renew diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to back down.

“The European three, which has been in the lead in negotiations with Iran, wants to put together a package that shows the two courses,” Rice said on NBC’s “Today” show. “Iran can either defy the international community and face isolation and U.N. Security Council action or accept a path with a civilian nuclear program that is acceptable to the international community.”

Rice’s remarks were the first official U.S. confirmation of a new overture and a delay in other action, although European diplomats had described it in vague terms this week. The United States has pushed for Security Council action for more than two years, and Rice has been in New York the last two days discussing Iran and other issues with her counterparts.

Iran says its nuclear development is for peaceful production of nuclear energy. The United States, European nations and others accuse Iran of using the civilian energy program to hide ambitions to build a nuclear weapon. The Security Council has already said Iran must account for questionable activities in the past and stop its current program of enriching uranium, a key ingredient to make both energy and bombs.

“We agreed that we would consider (whether) to seek a Security Council resolution, but that we would wait for a couple weeks while the Europeans work,” on the new proposal, Rice said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The United States had hoped to move ahead toward possible sanctions against Iran this week, but a meeting among Rice and representatives of the other permanent Security Council members ended with no sign that Iran’s allies, Russia and China, are prepared to back tough measures.

The council members agree that Iran cannot be allowed to have a weapon or to possess the most sensitive technology that could lead to one, Rice said during a round of interviews on morning television shows.

“We have some tactical differences about how to express that in Security Council,” Rice said on NBC, “but we have agreement that we need to express it in the Security Council and I can tell you that that we believe that to give a couple of weeks for this agreement to come together is a good thing, but there will be action in the Security Council.”

The powerful council could impose a range of sanctions against Iran if it presses ahead with uranium enrichment, including economic penalties or even an embargo on the oil exporter, although that is very unlikely.

Any penalties would require agreement or a vote to abstain from Russia and China, which have extensive commercial ties with Iran and have said they are opposed to sanctions. As permanent members, they can veto Security Council action.

Russia and China agreed to allow Iran’s case to come before the council after the failure of European-led talks that would have given Iran a package of economic incentives and free hand to develop civilian nuclear energy within international controls, so long as it gave up disputed portions of the program.

A Russian compromise to enrich uranium on Iran’s behalf has gone nowhere. Iran insists that it must have control of the full nuclear fuel development process. This spring Tehran restarted nuclear facilities that it had voluntarily shuttered during the European talks.

In an interview on Fox News, Rice said the delay can build consensus among council members.

“We are going to take the time to try to bring the Security Council together in a more unified way,” she said. “We are going to take the time so that the Europeans can show the Iranians what a path might look like.”

She repeated that the United States does not consider a letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to President Bush this week as a diplomatic opening on the nuclear issue.

On ABC, Rice called the letter “a broad, philosophical attack.”

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