Reuters: The United States on Wednesday called on Iran to pursue diplomacy in the standoff over its nuclear ambitions and warned that a confrontational approach would affect U.N. Security Council deliberations. By Carol Giacomo and Vicki Allen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday called on Iran to pursue diplomacy in the standoff over its nuclear ambitions and warned that a confrontational approach would affect U.N. Security Council deliberations.
Responding to Iranian threats against the United States, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli urged Iran to address international concerns and “match our commitment to diplomacy with the actions of a responsible state.”
“So far every step they’ve taken has been in the opposite direction, has been one of hostility and confrontation,” he told reporters.
Adding to the pressure, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to expand U.S. sanctions against Iran, despite administration concerns that this would hinder diplomatic efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The Senate has not moved on its version and the White House was expected to try to block or dilute the bill — which is aimed at foreign investors in Iran’s energy sector — before the legislation is sent to President George W. Bush.
In Tehran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed Iran would strike American interests worldwide if attacked by the United States, which is keeping its military options open in case diplomacy fails to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
He also said Iran was ready to share nuclear technology with other countries, suspend relations with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency if sanctions are imposed and withdraw from nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments.
U.S. officials said they take Iran’s threats seriously. But they added that the rhetoric may reflect a power struggle among Iranian leaders as well as an effort to “get ahead of” what is expected to be a critical report on its nuclear activities by the International Atomic Energy Agency, due Friday.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the threats may play well in Iran but could backfire internationally by undermining Tehran’s claim that it is only pursuing nuclear energy, not weapons.
“I think there is a real competition within Iran as to whose in charge” among President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Khamenei and influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the nuclear issue is part of that, said one American official.
Many of the threats have been made before, but Washington has to take them seriously because “you don’t really know what they might do,” the official said.
As for sharing nuclear technology with other countries, the officials said Iran does not have much to offer, although this could change if its nuclear program keeps progressing.
The United States, backed by Britain and France, has been pushing for sanctions if IAEA reports on Friday that Iran has defied U.N. Security Council demands to halt nuclear enrichment.
Russia and China, the council’s other two veto-wielding members, have opposed such penalties because of concerns this could force Iran into a corner or lead to U.S. military action.
Critics said the House bill would alienate countries Washington is working with to present a united international front against Iran’s nuclear program. Some also worried that it could push Bush closer to military intervention in Iran.