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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

09 May 2006

Iran's Letter to Bush Not Relevant to Nuclear Issue, Rice Says

Secretary meets with U.N. Security Council members to discuss Iran

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed a letter from Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad to President Bush May 8 as “broadly philosophical” and not relevant to the current discussions in the international community over Iran’s nuclear program.

“[T]here is nothing in this letter that in any way addresses any of the issues really that are on the table in the international community -- the nuclear program -- in a straightforward way -- the terrorism issue,” she told the Associated Press editorial board in New York.  “And it is most assuredly not a proposal.”

She said the letter does not represent an offer to open a dialogue about Iran’s nuclear program and address the international community’s demands.  She also noted that Iran previously walked out on discussions with three European countries about its program.

“Absence of communication isn't really the problem here.  We, the international community, have been very clear with the Iranians what they need to do.  The Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese, just about everybody in the world is talking to the Iranians and communicating precisely what it is that they need to do.  There are presidential statements and IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] Board of Governors resolutions,” she said.

Rice, who is in New York to meet with foreign ministers from the five permanent members (P5) of the U.N. Security Council, said it is time for the council to move ahead with a more forceful resolution on Iran. (See related article.)

“We need to get to something that's mandatory and binding and clear.  Our view is then that's a Chapter 7 resolution,” she said.  A resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter would introduce the possibility of applying punitive enforcement measures if Iran continues to ignore the council’s demands.

The secretary said she did not expect the current round of meetings to produce a resolution.  She said the purpose is rather to discuss the tools available to the council in confronting the Iranian issue and the impediments that different P5 members see to taking the next step.  The P5 countries – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – each have the power to veto any proposed measure.

Rice said it is important for the Security Council to send a clear message to the Iranians about the consequences of their actions.

“[W]e have to bring some pressure on the Iranians to understand that there will be a cost for their continued defiance of the international system, that they're not just going to get away with defying, defying, defying all the way up to continuing to improve their nuclear capabilities in dramatic ways by the end of the year next year,” she said.

She said the international community has the power to impose a painful degree of isolation on Iran, which she said is highly dependent on its integration into the world economy.

“I don’t think … that they will ultimately be able to afford the price,” she said.

The secretary said that if the Security Council becomes mired in debates about how to proceed, the United States would consider taking parallel action with likeminded countries outside of the council.

Rice dismissed Iran’s contention that it simply wants to develop a civil nuclear power industry.

“[I]f they are prepared to have a civil nuclear energy program that is along the lines of the ones that the Russians have offered them or that the Europeans have offered them, then this is finished, the deal is done,” she said.  “And by the way, if all they really want is civil nuclear power, then why are they insisting on this fuel cycle that has this [weapons] breakout potential?”

A transcript of Rice’s interview with the Associated Press is available on the State Department Web site.

For additional information, see Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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