Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Condoleezza Rice Voices Tough Line on Iran | Reuters.com

Politics News Article | Reuters.com: "Condoleezza Rice Voices Tough Line on Iran

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice articulated a firm U.S. line against Iran's ruling mullahs, whose nuclear ambitions the Bush administration considers a major threat, in testimony at her Senate confirmation hearings.
In two days of Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings that ended on Wednesday, Rice repeatedly emphasized differences with Tehran's clerical leaders, saying: "It's really hard to find common ground with a government that thinks Israel should be extinguished."

Rice did not rule out an eventual U.S. acceptance of a Europe-Iran nuclear energy technology deal, but did not endorse it.

"At some point Iran has to be held accountable for its unwillingness to live up to its international obligations," she said of the nuclear issue.

Some U.S. sources have said the administration is reviewing its Iran policy, which in Bush's first four years was the subject of intense debate.

Some Republican conservatives advocate a more assertive U.S. policy of support for Iranian reformers, including possibly covert operations.

Rice did not address this, and U.S. policy toward Iran was not a primary focus of senators, who spent more time probing U.S. decision-making on Iraq.

Many experts have urged Bush to negotiate with Iran on the issues that divide the two long-time adversaries, including U.S. claims that Tehran supports Islamic militants, harbors al Qaeda operatives and undermines Mideast peace efforts.

"This is just a regime that has a really very different view of the Middle East and where the world is going than we do" including an "appalling" human rights record, Rice said.

Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island accused Rice of "accentuating and magnifying" U.S. disputes with Iran while seeking common cause with China, another country with whom Washington has many differences.

On Tuesday, Rice reiterated that if Iran does not abandon its nuclear programs, the issue should be sent to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

Washington insists Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons but Tehran says it only wants to produce nuclear energy

The EU three -- Britain, France and Germany -- negotiated a deal under which Iran agreed to suspend nuclear activities in return for nuclear technology but the administration has been extremely doubtful this will solve the problem.
Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the committee's senior Democrat, pressed Rice on whether the administration might embrace the EU deal if Iran implemented a verifiable ban on nuclear and missile production.

If the nuclear issue is as critical as Bush suggested, the president should be ready to accept such a deal, he said.

Rice replied: "I think we would have to say that the relationship with Iran has more components than the nuclear side. But let's see how far the Europeans get and take a look at where we are.""

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