U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday Iran will not suspend uranium enrichment and it is time for the U.N. Security Council to move on sanctions against Tehran. Rice is expected to meet with fellow foreign ministers from the other permanent Security Council member countries and Germany on the issue as early as this week.
Though a Security Council deadline for Iran to halt enrichment expired August 31, the major powers allowed a dialogue between the European Union and Tehran to continue.
But EU chief diplomat Javier Solana declared Wednesday that "endless hours" of talks with Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larajani have failed to make any progress.
And Secretary Rice says it is time for the international community to "act accordingly" and move ahead on the sanctions threatened by the Security Council in Resolution 1696.
At a news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the West Bank, Rice said she shares Solana's bleak assessment, and that it is a time for both Iran and the Security Council to make a decision.
"I think we have come to a time when the Iranians have to make their choice, and the international system has to act accordingly," she said. "And it seems to me that acting accordingly is very much spelled out in Resolution 1696. That means action under Article 41 of Chapter Seven [of the U.N. Charter]."
Rice said the world community has been more than patient with Iran, not only in the Solana-Larijani discussions, but in talks between Iran and Britain, France and Germany dating back to their October 2003 agreement in Paris.
She said the logic of finally halting the open-ended negotiating process has become quite evident and that, she said, "is what we are going to have to do."
Rice said the so-called P-5 Plus 1 grouping may hold a ministerial-level meeting on a sanctions push as early as this week. News reports have said the gathering could be held in London Friday.
Iran this week floated an idea under which it would continue to enrich uranium on its soil under a consortium arrangement with France.
But the idea was rejected by the major powers, including France, with Rice Tuesday calling it a "stalling technique."
The secretary said in Cairo the United States was willing to accept a Russian proposal to furnish enriched uranium for Iranian civilian nuclear power plants.
But she said Iran itself should not be in a position to enrich and reprocess uranium, which she said is the "most important step" in developing a nuclear weapon.
U.S. diplomats say that despite the stated reluctance of Russia and China, there is a consensus for an early move to sanctions starting with curbs on Iran's ability to acquire weapons-related technology.