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Rice says Iran isolated on nuclear issue

Written by: Staff

BERLIN, Mar 30: U S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said a U N demand for curbs on Iran's nuclear work showed Tehran's isolation and said today's big-power talks should also cover ''broader concerns'' over its behavior.

Speaking to reporters en route to Berlin, where the five permanent members of the U N Security Council and Germany will discuss what to do next about Iran, Rice said the U.N. statement agreed today sent an important message to Tehran.

''The presidential statement is an international voice to the Iranians that they need to suspend their (uranium enrichment) activities, return to negotiations and that they continue to be isolated,'' said Rice.

She urged the council's other permanent members -- France, Britain, China and Russia -- and Germany to take into account Iran's calls for Israel to be ''wiped off the map'', as well as its support for Syria and Hizbollah in Lebanon.

Rice said she was not suggesting the council should take up these other issues immediately, adding Iran's nuclear programme must be the focus. The West suspects Iran of seeking atomic weapons. Tehran says it only wants civilian nuclear power.

''I think it's more of an issue of the context in which we understand Iran's nuclear ambitions,'' Rice said. ''It is a troublesome regime for peace and stability in the Middle East.'' The big powers haggled over the text of the U N statement for weeks, with Russia and China resisting language they feared would ultimately lead to punitive measures against Iran, which both nations oppose.

Rice denied the United States tried to insert language that would lead to sanctions via a Chapter Seven resolution at the world body, but said such a resolution was possible later.

''We were not trying to hide a Chapter Seven resolution. When we get to the state of affairs that we want to seek a resolution, we will seek a resolution,'' she said.

She said there had been ''give and take'', with both Moscow and Washington making compromises. ''When you are taking a first step, the unity of the P5 (permanent five), in particular, is extremely important.'' Asked what the next steps could be against Iran, Rice said this depended on how Tehran reacted to the U N statement.

''Once you are in the Security Council you have a number of options at your disposal and it's not just sanctions of the kind that people have always thought about,'' she said.

''We will look at how politically we can send a strong message to the regime,'' she said, without elaborating.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday said neither Beijing nor Moscow could support the idea of pressuring Iran and would not tolerate the use of force.

Since the U S-led invasion of Iraq three years ago there is widespread suspicion about Washington's intentions in Iran.

Proliferation expert Joseph Cirincione said he was concerned that the Bush administration wanted military action to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions and that U S allies shared that worry.

''None of them wants to use the United Nations as a staging ground for another military adventure,'' said Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based thinktank.

He said part of Rice's mission in Berlin would be to reassure other countries the United States wanted to resolve the Iran issue diplomatically. ''The mistrust is palpable,'' he said.


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