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Rice Says No Time for Delay on UN Iran Statement


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday there should be no further delay on a U.N. Security Council statement calling on Iran to halt uranium enrichment activities. Differences among permanent council members on the wording of a statement have stalled action.

In comments reflecting U.S. impatience on the Security Council impasse, Secretary Rice says there should be no delay or stalling on a statement making clear that the council is united on having Iran live up to its international nuclear obligations.

The Secretary spoke at a press event here as the Security Council moved toward the end of a second week of consultations with no apparent progress on a so-called president's statement expressing concern about the Iranian nuclear program.

The United States, Britain and France have submitted a draft understood to threaten Iran with possible punishment if it does not halt uranium enrichment activity and return to negotiations. But the other two permanent council members, Russia and China, are reported to favor a more conciliatory approach with no reference to punitive measures.

In comments at a joint news conference with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, Secretary Rice said the presidential statement was part of an understanding the five permanent council members reached at a London meeting at the end of January.

She said there is no time for delay in showing that the world community is united in demanding that Iran fulfill its Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations in order to allay concerns about its nuclear intentions:

"There is an erosion of confidence in Iran on this point because they lied to the IAEA for 18 years," said Condoleezza Rice. "If they do want a civil nuclear program, that's fine, they can have one, but not with enrichment and reprocessing on Iranian territory. They need to suspend the activity in which they are engaged and returns o negotiations. There shouldn't be any delay, there can't be any stalling. The international community has got to act."

The United States has long held that Iran's nominally peaceful nuclear program conceals a covert weapons effort. Rice said the United States remains committed to a diplomatic solution to the issue but that the Security Council needs to act to show that this is possible.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday his government opposes the Western draft because it removes the issue from the purview of the International Atomic Energy Agency and effectively lays groundwork for sanctions against Iran.

Officials here said Rice had discussed the issue several times in the last few days with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and intended to call Lavrov as well.

The Iran nuclear issue figured in the Secretary's meeting with the Greek foreign minister that was otherwise dominated by southern European and Balkans issues including efforts to reach an agreement on the political future of Kosovo.

Bakoyannis, who became foreign minister last month after having been mayor of Athens, said she reaffirmed Greece's commitment to seeking a united bi-communal Cyprus based on relevant U.N. resolutions and the Cyprus peace plan of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Cyprus peace efforts have been stalled since early 2004 when Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan plan in a referendum, while Turkish Cypriots supported it.

Bakoyannis said Greece joins the United States in supporting Turkey's European Union aspirations. But she said Turkey's European future rests in its own hands, and its willingness to apply European norms and practices both inside Turkey and in its relations with neighbors, especially Greece and Cyprus.

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