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US Seeks Consensus on Iran's Nuclear Program

U.S. Seeks international Consensus on Iran's Nuclear Program

Secretary of State Rice says Iran cannot endure international isolation

By Phillip Kurata
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – The United States is working with the international community to build a broad consensus to thwart Iran’s plans to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear program.

“The international community wants Iran to be clear about what it's doing, to be transparent, to stop pursuing a nuclear weapons program under the guise of a civilian nuclear program,” State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said at the daily State Department briefing September 21.

Ereli said the United Kingdom, France and Germany, known as the EU-3 when dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue, are leading the international effort in dealing with Iran and the United States supports the EU-3 initiative.

Speaking to the editors of Time magazine September 19, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that she expects the Iranian nuclear issue will be referred to the U.N. Security Council but the timing is unclear.

“The timing is a matter for diplomacy. When you think you have a consensus that makes sense, then I think you go with it. We have the votes now, but the question is do you have enough of a consensus to send the right kind of message,” she added.

Ereli said that the EU-3 is presenting a draft resolution on the issue at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors in Vienna, Austria, September 21. He said Iran faces a clear choice in its dealings with the international community: “stop deceiving the international community, come clean, be transparent, address the concerns, or face referral” to the Security Council.

Rice told the Time editors that Iran is ill prepared to endure the isolation from the international community that would occur if its noncompliance with its international nonproliferation obligations were brought before the Security Council.

“Ultimately, I don't believe the Iranians can afford to be completely isolated from the international community,” Rice said. “The Iranian people are accustomed to interaction with the international community. This is a very worldly population that is accustomed to being a part of the international economy, international politics. I don't think Iran wants to get that isolated. And I think it's one reason that they have been so anxious to avoid referral to the Security Council.”

Ereli said that a “significant evolution” has taken place in the international community about the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear activities. He said Russia’s insistence on controlling the handling and processing of the nuclear fuel that is used in the Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation activities is a clear indication of Russia’s worries about Iran’s nuclear intentions.

“They [Russians] buy into the notion that Iran is up to no good, and for that reason, they're controlling how that fuel is processed and handled,” Ereli said.

Rice said that economic necessity might persuade Iran to show more flexibility in its dealings with the international community concerning its nuclear program, the fiery rhetoric of newly elected President Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad notwithstanding.

“[W]e know that the economy itself is actually not in very good shape. And that one of the reasons that Ahmadinejad was actually elected was that the economy has not been able to keep pace with burgeoning unemployment among youth, burgeoning underemployment even for those who are employed. This is an economy that desperately needs access to the international system and they're not going to get it while they're in this state,” Rice said.

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