US presses for longer-term measures on Iran

Date: 03-30-06

BERLIN (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called a newly adopted UN statement on Iran a first step and urged world powers to consider longer-term measures to thwart Tehran's suspected nuclear arms ambitions.

Flying in for talks on Iran with Washington's European allies as well as Russia and China, Rice welcomed the UN Security Council presidential statement adopted Wednesday as an important diplomatic marker.

But she acknowledged that the text, which calls on Iran to abandon sensitive uranium-enrichment activities yet does not threaten sanctions, was a compromise struck after weeks of haggling, notably with Russia.

"We've had tactical differences and this gives us the chance to stay together as we move forward," Rice said en route from Washington.

"When you are taking a first step, the unity of ... the Security Council is extremely important."

If Washington wanted unity, Russia wanted no mention of coercive force.

"We were willing to deal with the Russians on their concern and clearly they were willing to deal with us on our concern," Rice said.

She was meeting here with counterparts from the council's other four permanent members -- Russia, China, Britain and France -- plus Germany, for what she called an opening debate on the next steps in the nuclear dispute.

"This is not to go and write another statement. We've finished that," the chief US diplomat told reporters. "This is really to have an open discussion about how to move forward."

Rice denied the UN Security Council vote Wednesday was aimed at paving the way for tough action against Iran.

"We're not trying to hide a chapter seven resolution in a presidential statement," she said referring to the chapter of the UN charter that declares a threat to peace or stability.

She did not detail what measures the United States had in mind, saying that would depend largely on Iran's reaction to the UN statement. But she suggested they might not necessarily involve sanctions, which Moscow and Beijing oppose.

Now that the matter has reached the UN Security Council, she said, "you have a number of options at your disposal and it's not just sanctions of the kind that people have always thought about."

One move might be sending strong political messages to Tehran to hammer home the clerical regime's isolation, Rice said. She also suggested pressure could be applied to Iran's current nuclear program, which Tehran insists is strictly peaceful.

"I think we have to look at how those (nuclear) capabilities are being supported and what we might do about the support to those capabilities," she said without elaborating.

Rice brushed off Iran's threats to bar access to international inspectors if the West moved against its nuclear program. She said Tehran felt no compunction about pursuing its sensitive nuclear research even with inspectors on hand.

"If Iran makes that threat and carries through on it then I think we'll have a better and clearer view of what Iran's intentions really are. And so that's not a cost-free move by the Iranians," she said.

The secretary again called Tehran's nuclear program "one of the most important issues in the international system at this time" but said the Berlin meeting could also take up other dimensions of what Washington considers the Iranian threat.

These include, she said, Iran's role in global terrorism, its repressive government, its support for armed Palestinian resistance to Israel and its status as a "troublesome regime for peace and stability in the Middle East."

Rice was also due to have talks Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and fly to Paris to confer with French President Jacques Chirac before heading to Britain to visit the home constituency of Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Germany, France and Britain led more than a year of efforts to coax Iran out of its suspected nuclear arms program by offering economic and other incentives. The talks collapsed on January when Tehran said it was resuming sensitive research.


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