Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice Tuesday urged international unity in insisting that Iran and North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. She said if the current European initiative with Iran falters, the matter should go to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
Ms. Rice says the world is sending a message to Iran that it cannot be a legitimate participant in the international system and politics and at the same time pursue a nuclear weapons program.
She told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at her confirmation hearing that the United States supports the joint British-French-German initiative with Iran to persuade it to drop its weapons ambitions.
But she said if the European effort founders, the question of the Iranian program should go to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions: "There is a path ahead. If the Europeans are unable to get a satisfactory understanding with the Iranians about their international obligations," she said. "I think we have to go back and look at the process that was prescribed, which is that this would go to the Security Council and we would go from there. Nobody is saying that there have to be sanctions right away or anything of the sort. What we are saying that Iran has to be held to account for its international obligations."
The ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee Joseph Biden said it is unlikely that the Security Council could be persuaded to sanction Iran if the matter was put before it. "The likelihood of the U.N. Security Council, maybe you have more faith in the U.N. Security Council than I do, but the likelihood of them concluding that Iran is in non-compliance and imposing broad sanctions, we already sanction the heck out of them, and impose broad sanctions, I wouldn't want bet my, I wouldn't want to bet anything on that," he said.
Senator Biden asked why the United States does not join the so-called Euro-three in approaching Iran with incentives to drop its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Ms. Rice suggested that is impractical because of the United States' turbulent past history with Iran and differences with Tehran on other issues including human rights and its alleged involvement in terrorism.
She expressed skepticism about the Europeans' chances of success but said she hopes they will succeed, saying someone needs to test the Iranians' willingness to live up to their international obligations.
The Secretary-designate was asked by Democratic Senator John Kerry about an article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker magazine that the United States has conducted secret reconnaissance missions in Iran to identify nuclear or missile sites for possible attacks later this year.
Ms. Rice did not specifically address points raised in the article by Mr. Hersh. But echoing a Pentagon spokesman Monday, she said the article is inaccurate and does not represent U.S. policies toward Iran or its expectation of policies toward Iran.
In another exchange with Mr. Kerry, Ms. Rice said the United States remains committed to a diplomatic resolution of the issue of the North Korean nuclear program through the six-party talks hosted by China.
Ms. Rice said she is hopeful that Pyongyang will be persuaded to return to the talks, and recognize it has no other option but to give up its nuclear weapons program in a verifiable way.
She reiterated the United States has no intention of invading or attacking North Korea, and that the reclusive communist government can choose another path in relations with Washington and the rest of the international community by agreeing to disarm.