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Rice Confident of 'Appropriate' UN Statement on Iran


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday she is confident the U.N. Security Council will find an "appropriate vehicle" for expressing its concern about Iran's nuclear program. Rice spoke in Jakarta amid reports of discord among permanent Security Council members about the handling of the nuclear issue.

The Secretary of State is downplaying reports of divisions among the permanent Security Council members about the Iran issue, and says she is confident the world community will send Tehran a "very strong message" on the need to give up its nuclear ambitions.

Rice spoke at a news conference with her Indonesian counterpart Hasan Wirayuda amid reports that U.S.-led efforts to get the council to approve a strongly worded president's statement on Iran have bogged down. The United States and other countries are concerned that Iran may secretly be trying to develop nuclear weapons, in violation of the Non-proliferation Treaty.

Sources close to the council's deliberations in New York said late Monday the United States, Britain and France were pressing for early action on a statement calling on Iran to return to talks on its uranium enrichment program or face possible sanctions. But China and Russia were said to object to portions of the proposed text, including any mention of deadlines or a sanctions threat.

Asked abut the reports here, Secretary Rice says she is content to let diplomacy continue for a while before speculating what the outcome might be. She noted the United States had agreed with other permanent council members at the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting last month to postpone a U.N. referral for several weeks to allow more time for diplomacy outside the U.N. framework.

She said it is now time for action within the council, and predicted it will be forthcoming.

"We fulfilled that part of the bargain, and now it's time for this to be discussed in the Security Council," she said. "And I'm quite certain that when everyone has a chance to think about the importance of sending Iran a very strong message that it's time for Iran to heed the call of that resolution that was voted on February 4, telling Iran to suspend its activities, telling Iran to go back to negotiations, that we'll find the appropriate vehicle for doing so."

Rice said the Iranians have done nothing to demonstrate that the matter should not be in the Security Council, and said she knows no one within "the responsible community of nations" that wants Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

For his part, Foreign Minister Wirayuda said Indonesia upholds the right of Iran, as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. But he said his government "would be among the first" to tell Iran not to divert nuclear technology for weapons development.

He suggested Iran should avail itself of Russia's offer to enrich uranium for its civilian nuclear program on Russian territory to assuage concerns about Tehran's intentions.

"We encourage Iran to talk, to continue their discussions with Russia, because the agreements to enrich the uranium in Russia would a good solution on this issue," he said. " Likewise, we also very much encourage Iran to continue their discussion with the E.U. Three. And for that matter, we hope that the current situation could be solved peacefully, and time must be given for the peaceful resolution of this situation."

Iran denies U.S. assertions that its nominally peaceful nuclear program has a secret weapons component. But it has also insisted that it has a right to a complete nuclear fuel cycle including a uranium enrichment capability.

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