AP: The Bush administration, searching for ways to induce Iran to resume negotiations to end its nuclear programs, is exploring a wide range of options. But expanded diplomatic contact is not among them. Associated Press
By BARRY SCHWEID
AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON – The Bush administration, searching for ways to induce Iran to resume negotiations to end its nuclear programs, is exploring a wide range of options. But expanded diplomatic contact is not among them.
“If we need to get a message across there are numerous ways to do that,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday.
He denounced Iran as “a regime that is seeking nuclear weapons, that supports terrrorism and that oppresses its people” and said existing channels, including U.N. offices in New York, were available, if needed.
Diplomatic contacts with Iran have been extremely limited since its fundamentalist revolution in 1979. By contrast, the European allies that have been negotiating with Iran have diplomatic relations with Tehran.
“There is no change in our policy with respect to Iran,” McCormack said.
“If anything, over the past weeks and months, you have seen an ever tougher-minded U.S. policy as well as a tougher-minded policy from the international community,” he said.
A briefing paper circulated within the State Department suggests direct diplomatic contact with Iran to try to reopen negotiations with the European Union. But McCormack flatly ruled that out as an option.
“Secretary of State (Condoleezza) Rice is not contemplating any such change in U.S. policy,” McCormack said.
“Secretary Rice, senior policy-makers in the U.S. government, are not broadening U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran,” he said. “There are already existing diplomatic channels,” including an “interest section” in Tehran through which Swiss diplomats look after American interests, he said.
The White House last month warned Iran of the prospect that Tehran’s nuclear activities could be brought before the U.N. Security Council where Iran would run the risk of censure or economic sanctions, if the United States and its allies achieved a majority and averted a veto by Russia or China.
On another front, the administration considers Iran to be the most avid supporter of terrorism in the world. In Iraq, however, where infiltration of militant fighters is a tough obstacle to postwar reconstruction, Syria is considered a far more active channel.
Still, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday that new explosive devices used against coalition forces in Iraq “lead us either to Iranian elements or to Hezbollah.”
While stressing that “we cannot be sure” about Iran’s possible role, the British leader linked the issue to the diplomatic confrontation between Tehran and Western nations over Iran’s nuclear program.
Responding, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said “certainly that would be of concern to us.”
“I think you have heard us talk about how it’s important for Iran to have a good, constructive relationship with their neighbors, including Iraq,” McClellan said.
The White House and State Department spokesman, while expressing concern about Iranian activities, did not directly endorse a senior British official’s assertion on Wednesday that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is believed to have supplied explosive technology that has killed eight British soldiers in incidents over the summer.
“We stand with the British government as they investigate this matter,” McCormack said.