Reuters: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday Iran “crossed the threshold” with its recent nuclear actions and the world must act fast to send Tehran to the U.N. Security Council. By Sue Pleming
MONROVIA, Jan 16 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday Iran “crossed the threshold” with its recent nuclear actions and the world must act fast to send Tehran to the U.N. Security Council.
The Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany are holding talks in London on Monday in search of a common strategy to tackle Iran’s resumption of atomic fuel research and development after a two-year moratorium.
Rice said the United States wanted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to hold an emergency meeting as soon as possible, fearing if IAEA members waited until a scheduled meeting in March this would give Iran a chance to further “obfuscate” over its nuclear weapons plans.
“We just can’t let them do that,” she told reporters traveling with her to Liberia for the inauguration of Africa’s first woman president.
Tehran denies Western accusations it is trying to build nuclear weapons under cover of an atomic power programme and says it only wants to generate electricity.
Rice said she had “very good” conversations with many IAEA foreign ministers over the weekend and she was optimistic of their support in referring Iran to the Security Council where it could ultimately face sanctions.
“We have got to finally demonstrate to Iran that it can’t with impunity just cast aside the just demands of the international community,” Rice told reporters, without specifying which ministers she had spoken to or which countries backed an immediate referral.
“There is some work to do because you would like there to be a strong consensus for a vote. But whatever the numbers of the vote, I don’t think there is any doubt that people are quite clear that Iran has crossed the threshold,” she added.
The United States and European powers taking the lead against Iran — France, Germany and Britain — need the support of Russia and China to get Iran referred to the Security Council.
Rice would not be drawn on whether she thought the U.S. had the support of Russia or China, but she said Moscow voiced strong disappointment after Iran removed U.N. seals at its uranium-enrichment plant and resumed nuclear fuel research last week.
In addition, Iran had spurned Russia’s offer to help Tehran meet its civilian nuclear needs without increasing proliferation risks, she added.
While countries might have “various tactics” in dealing with Iran, she said no nation had spoken out in favour of Iran. “They are getting nothing but condemnation.”
On Sunday, Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona said the United States might ultimately have to undertake a military strike to deter Iran.
Asked about military options and whether force should be used now or at least threatened against Iran, Rice reiterated that the current focus was on diplomacy.
“I don’t think it helps really to speculate. We have said all along that the president always keeps all of his options but the course that we are on is the diplomatic course.”
She said it was unlikely that Iran could stand the kind of isolation that would result from Security Council action.
“They are putting a lot at risk here and I am hopeful and hoping with others that when this regime recognizes or faces the fact that it is about to be really pretty fundamentally isolated that they will reconsider their options,” said Rice.