Iran Nuclear NewsRice promises more U.S. pressure on Iran in 2008

Rice promises more U.S. pressure on Iran in 2008

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Reuters: The United States is open to better relations and talks with Iran, but Washington will not drop its condition that Tehran suspend sensitive nuclear work, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday. By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is open to better relations and talks with Iran, but Washington will not drop its condition that Tehran suspend sensitive nuclear work, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday.

She urged Tehran to “choose cooperation, not confrontation” in its dealings with major powers at a news conference to sum up her diplomatic efforts this year, which included increased pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

Rice also promised to maintain a U.S. campaign of isolation against Iran. Washington believes Iran is building an atomic bomb, while Tehran says its nuclear work is for power purposes.

“We will continue, in the meantime, to step up the pressure behind our diplomacy,” said Rice, referring to U.S. efforts to get a third round of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

A U.S. intelligence estimate this month said Iran had ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003, leading to calls by some Iran experts for Washington to drop its precondition that Tehran give up uranium enrichment before talks could begin.

However, Rice dismissed these suggestions.

“I continue to say that if Iran will just do the one thing that is required of it by the Security Council resolutions that have been passed — and that is suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities — then I’m prepared to meet my counterpart any place and anytime and anywhere and we can talk about anything,” Rice said.

The new intelligence estimate reinforced the need for sustained pressure on Iran, she said. One of the reasons to have suspension as a condition was because if the West was talking to Iran while it was perfecting sensitive nuclear work “you’re not getting anywhere,” she added.

“Iran should not be allowed to practice enrichment and reprocessing to … have fissile material for a nuclear weapon,” she said. “In fact, they’re using the cover of negotiations to perfect this technology. That’s why suspension is important.”

Rice said the United States and others had given Iran every opportunity to enter into talks, including the offer of a two-month suspension of uranium enrichment.

While the United States is pushing hard for a third U.N. sanctions resolution, veto-wielding permanent U.N. Security Council members China and Russia are reluctant to further punish Iran, particularly after the new U.S. intelligence.

“We are now negotiating, and I believe that we will achieve next year, a third sanctions resolution,” said Rice.

However, senior officials from China, Russia, Britain, France, the United States and Germany failed to agree during talks on Thursday on language for a new U.N. resolution and Rice conceded afterward that “tactical differences” remained.

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