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Rice, Italian FM say Security Council Referral of Iran is Absolute Necessity

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini say a U.N. Security Council referral of the Iran nuclear issue is an absolute necessity. The Secretary dismissed suggestions the drive for referral is losing momentum.

The meeting between Secretary Rice and her Italian counterpart was dominated by the Iran nuclear issue, and came amid reports the effort to send the matter to the Security Council for possible sanctions has run into resistance from some key parties including Russia.

But in a joint press appearance with the Italian Foreign Minister, Rice insisted that the case against Iran is clear and that there is nothing to be gained from further talks outside the Security Council format, which she said will underscore Iran's isolation on the issue.

"They have walked out of negotiations with the European-Three," said Ms. Rice. "They have broken the moratorium on enrichment and reprocessing, that they had been involved in, they have broken the seals at Natanz. It seems to me the case for referral is very strong and that's what we intend to seek at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting. The Security Council can then take up the matter at a later time, but the referral absolutely has to be made."

Mr. Fini, for his part, also said referral is an absolute necessity to underscore that the international community is not going to be divided by Iranian behavior.

He said Iran's actions have been made even more unacceptable from a moral standpoint because of recent statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has among other things threatened to wipe Israel off the map.

At the same time, he said he hoped the Security Council will examine the Iranian issue with "flexibility and political far-sightedness."

Secretary Rice said if the expected Security Council debate leads to sanctions, she hopes they can be crafted to penalize the Iranian government but not isolate the Iranian people:

"It is the Iranian regime that's isolating Iran. Not the international community," she added. "No one wishes to isolate the Iranian people. The Iranian people are a great people that deserve to be integrated into the international community, and I think that one thing we will want to think about is how whatever the course that is taken with Iran that the message gets through loud and clear both in rhetoric and reality to the Iranian people that we do not wish to isolate them."

The Secretary said under questioning that the use of force against Iran is "not on the agenda" because the Bush administration is committed to a diplomatic course, but said the President takes no option off the table.

Though Iran continues to insist that its nuclear intentions are peaceful, the United States says Iran has long had a secret weapons program.