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US Government Holds Hearings on Iran


Iran remains a top concern for the United States because of Iran's refusal to restrict its nuclear program. The U.S. also accuses Iran of supporting terrorist groups in the Middle East. VOA's Ernest Leong reports.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee met in Washington Tuesday to hear testimony on Iran from Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns.

Committee members raised questions about Iran's nuclear policy, possible further U.N. sanctions against Iran, and sectarian violence in the region.

Burns addressed the nuclear issue in his opening statement. "They've [Iran has] refused specifically to suspend their enrichment and reprocessing activities at their plant in Natanz, which is the condition for sitting down to talk to them."

Iran claims its nuclear plants are for peaceful purposes only. But while enriched uranium is used to fuel nuclear power stations, it can also be used in nuclear bombs.

This concerns the U.S. and its allies, including China and Russia. Burns says it is important to maintain a united front against Iran on this issue. "One of the accomplishments of the last two years is that we have Russia and China and Europe united on a common approach to squeeze the Iranians."

Burns says another concern is that Iran is inciting violence in the Middle East. He cited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal as one example. "When the Hamas leader visited Tehran this morning, it is true, and one member said this, and President Ahmadinejad apparently said -- if we're to believe the press reports -- that Hamas should continue its violent attacks on the government of Israel."

Burns says one way the U.S. is trying to bring peace to the Middle East -- Iraq in particular -- is by attending an upcoming meeting in Baghdad with European nations, Iran and Syria.

"To try to send a message that every one of those countries, particularly Iran and Syria, have a self-interest and an obligation to use their influence, for peace, for an end to the fighting among the ethnic groups there, and to secure stability at long last in Iraq itself."

Burns says diplomacy continues to be the best course of action in dealing with the Iranian regime.

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