AFP: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday took a swipe at European countries negotiating to halt Iran’s nuclear drive, saying they had failed to make sufficiently clear the threat of UN sanctions. Rice made her remarks concerning the negotiations led by Britain, France and Germany in an interview with Fox News to be broadcast a day after she made a major appeal for transatlantic unity following the divisions over the Iraq war. AFP
By Peter Mackler
BRUSSELS – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday took a swipe at European countries negotiating to halt Iran’s nuclear drive, saying they had failed to make sufficiently clear the threat of UN sanctions.
Rice made her remarks concerning the negotiations led by Britain, France and Germany in an interview with Fox News to be broadcast a day after she made a major appeal for transatlantic unity following the divisions over the Iraq war.
“The Iranians need to hear that if they are unwilling to live with verification measures… then the Security Council referral looms,” she said.
“I don’t know that anyone has said that as clearly as they should to the Iranians.”
The negotiations over Iran’s suspected nuclear ambitions have been a major issue throughout Rice’s eight-nation tour of Europe, her first trip as chief US diplomat since taking over from Colin Powell last month.
The United States accuses Iran of trying to obtain nuclear weapons under cover of developing a civilian atomic energy programme, and has not excluded a military option against Tehran.
However, Washington has so far supported the three EU countries’ diplomatic efforts, which have focussed on getting Iran to promise not to make the bomb in return for trade privileges with the 25-nation bloc.
“The international community has got to be certain to speak with one very tough voice to the Iranians that it is not going to be acceptable for Iran to build a nuclear weapon under cover of civilian nuclear power,” Rice told Fox.
She said the United States had believed all along that Iran should be referred to the UN Security Council for violating international non-proliferation norms.
“But they need to hear that the discussions that they’re in with the Europeans are not going to be a kind of way-station where they are allowed to continue their activities, that there’s going to be an end to this and that they’re going to end up in the Security Council,” Rice said.
Her remarks come a day after Rice flew into Paris, a hotbed of opposition to the US-led war in Iraq, proclaiming that a “new chapter” had been opened in transatlantic relations strained for two years by divisions over the war.
But at the same time, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said the Europeans needed more support from the United States if they were to persuade Tehran to renounce its suspected attempts to develop a nuclear bomb.
For international pressure to work, Barnier said, “we need Russia, we need China, and we also need the support of the United States in this delicate phase”.
At their latest round of talks with Iran in Geneva Tuesday, according to diplomats, Britain, France and Germany warned the country about activities that verge on breaches of its deal to freeze nuclear fuel cycle work.
Rice flew in Wednesday to Brussels for a working lunch with her NATO counterparts and talks with European Union officials before heading off for Luxembourg, the last stop on her tour of Europe and the Middle East.