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Condoleezza Rice Briefing En Route Washington, DC

Briefing En Route Washington, DC

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
En Route Washington, DC
July 31, 2006

SECRETARY RICE: I just wanted to come back and take note of the passage of the resolution in the UN Security Council on Iran. It has passed. It is -- the resolution makes the suspension of uranium enrichment activities in Iran mandatory. It also gives Iran a deadline of August 31st to in fact end those suspension activities, and so -- to suspend those enrichment activities. And so obviously it's something people have worked very hard on. It's based on the Paris agreement that was made a couple of weeks ago.

I want to be very clear that it doesn't close the door to diplomacy. Obviously the Iranians still have a six-party package on the table that could take this along another route, but we've said repeatedly that if Iran was unwilling to make the choice to move on the path toward cooperation then the Security Council would have to act. And so today the Security Council acted and I want to thank all the members of the Security Council for their work.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, when we were in Paris I think he was speaking as a senior official, so I'll just say a senior official on your staff told us that there still wasn't agreement on kind of the menu of options for sanctions or potential actions that would come after this resolution. Have you gotten any closer with China and Russia on what might come next?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the resolution is clear that what comes next is that there would be -- the Security Council would come back to look at measures under Article 41, which is the sanctions article of Chapter 7. Chapter 7, Article 41.

I think in part what sanctions would be contemplated is going to depend on what Iranian behavior is, what kinds of signals are coming out of Iran. We aren't at this point trying to put together a resolution for that time. I think we wanted to get this one passed and then to work to try and see if the Iranians wish to reverse course, wish to change course.

But I am quite confident that if this continues and if August 31st there isn't a positive answer, then we'll be able to come to agreement on a next resolution under Article 41, Chapter 7.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, some of the diplomats after the Paris meeting and when they started -- went to the UN to start putting this together said that the Russians having safely gotten by the G-8 started -- tried -- tried to water down the resolution. Are you happy with the performance so far of Russia and are you confident that when time -- if the time comes to impose sanctions, you're still going to have them with you?

SECRETARY RICE: I'm both satisfied and confident because I think that the resolution is very close to what we talked about in Paris and there was very good cooperation to get it done. We've been in substantial agreement for really several days and the kind of crowded calendar at the UN Security Council around other issues, I think its passage today shows that the Security Council is able to act and able to act in spite of the many, many challenges that it's facing. I mean, it's facing a lot of different issues and still it's able to act.

I'm also confident that we have very good cooperation with Russia and China on this issue. Every time we've met at foreign ministers we've moved the ball forward. We made a clear statement out of Paris as to what we were going to do because the Vienna accords had not been -- the Vienna agreement had not been taken up by the Iranians. We made very clear at Paris what we were going to do and now we've done it.

And so I think this is a record of moving steadily ahead and I'm quite confident that when the time comes to the next step, we'll move ahead again.

QUESTION: If I could ask you just one Mideast question. When we got to Shannon we found out that the Israelis in fact were using aerial overflights to attack some targets in southern Lebanon. Could you tell us what you know of the situation there and how this squares with the suspension that was announced last night?

SECRETARY RICE: The Israelis tell us that it's close air support for their forces. And what we are concentrating on is that we expect, as I said this morning, the implementation of this suspension to achieve the goals that it was set to achieve. It is to make certain that there can be safe passage and we intend for there to be safe passage. It's meant to allow humanitarian assistance in. And most importantly, it's meant to allow the Israelis to look at their operations of the kind that caused Qana so that that won't happen again to have an investigation. So we are concentrating on that. They tell us it was close air support for forces that were being engaged.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, do you have a schedule yet for this week on the UN Security Council and when we might be going up to New York?

SECRETARY RICE: Sorry, I can't tell you when to pack just yet. No, I don't have a schedule. But you know that we're working very hard to make it this week.

QUESTION: The fact that Iran has not yet answered to the letter that you sent to them and the proposals that you sent, does that mean that that is sort of dead in the water now? Do you have no hope now that they're going to respond to that and that sort of avenue is finished?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, from our point of view the avenue isn't finished because this resolution says that they should respond to what is now a mandatory requirement for suspension by August 31st. They could clearly still respond by August 31st.

But I want to be very clear what this resolution does. The Iranians have claimed on a number of occasions that their suspension was voluntary and that they were therefore not obligated to suspend enrichment activity after the Paris agreement that they signed two years ago with the European-3. This says yes, in fact, that suspension is mandatory, it is now mandatory under Security Council authority and so we will now see whether the Iranians decide to defy the Security Council or to take the alternative path that's been allowed for them.

QUESTION: Some time back, the Iranians announced a goal of having 3,000 centrifuges up and running by the end of the year. You have wanted to get the deadline earlier so that -- to head off that event, which could get them pretty close to being able to enrich enough of uranium to make a weapon. It looks like you're now going to go into the fall with sanctions possibility, so how do you see your timeline coming out?

SECRETARY RICE: When we made the announcement of the package of the six, we said that we would review the case mid July; and reviewing it in mid July, we said it was time to refer it to the Security Council and it's now been voted in the Security Council. So there isn't any change in the timeline here that we anticipated would give us a clear indication of whether or not the negotiating track was still available to us.

We've now -- as I said, I think you shouldn't under -- we cannot underestimate the importance of making this suspension mandatory because the Iranians have argued over and over that this was just something that was negotiated between the parties, there was no obligation under this and therefore they were within their rights to enrich and reprocess.

I want to be very clear. They're still within their rights to have a civil nuclear program that does not have as a part of it activities that they can use to cover a nuclear program. But what this does is to say that the world does not believe that Iran can be allowed to enrich and reprocess uranium, and that's a very big step forward from where they were. And so the timetable from my point of view to try to get some real pressure on the Iranians before they move terribly much further is still intact.

QUESTION: What is the mechanism contemplated by the resolution to enforce or inspect? Is it IAEA? Are the inspectors back inside?

SECRETARY RICE: The resolution -- you're right -- also calls for full cooperation with the IAEA, which of course the Iranians have not been giving full cooperation, so that element is also there. There are inspections and you know the IAEA is on the ground, but it does in fact ask for full cooperation as well.

QUESTION: There's a perception out there right now that given what Israel did after -- right after -- you know, we reached this agreement, it looked really good, and then we took off and they went ahead and with aerial strikes. And it looks as if they were just giving you time to like leave and then they'd go back to the status quo. Can you address that? Can you address just how you felt when you found out that they had gone ahead and --

SECRETARY RICE: I have had more questions about how I felt. Helene, the question is what did we do. And what we did was to seek clarification from the Israeli Government about whether or not they were adhering to the agreement here, which is that they themselves -- by the way, they themselves decided on a suspension. Remember, this is not a suspension between the -- a suspension agreement between the United States and Israel. This is an Israeli decision to suspend its operations so that it can do certain things. And we wanted to make sure that they were adhering to what we understood to be a suspension that would allow these things to happen.

They gave us an explanation. They say it's close air support. We're going to continue to press on making certain that people can move, that goods can move to people, and I think they have a very strong interest in investigating and reviewing procedures for the kind of strike that caused Qana. So that's the nature of it and that's what we did; we sought clarification.


Released on July 31, 2006


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