US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice
Just a day before presidential elections in Iran, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the Iranian political system is moving backwards.  In a news conference before leaving on a week-long trip to the Middle East and Europe Secretary Rice also said North Korea must not only return to six-party talks on its nuclear weapons program, but also must be willing to dismantle that program. 

As Iranians were preparing to go to the polls to elect a president, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said because thousands of people, including women as a class, have been barred from participating in the vote, the elections cannot be considered legitimate. "My point is that whatever happens there, we've long said to the Iranians that we have very big concerns about their behavior," she said.  "And I think everybody understands what that means.  And, again, I would just focus on the trend line here, which is simply the in wrong direction."

She made the remarks at a State Department news conference Thursday, a day before she embarks on a week-long trip to the Middle East and Europe.

Dr. Rice was also asked about North Korea's signal that it is ready to resume the six-party talks it abandoned nearly a year ago, on its nuclear weapons program. 

She said since the North Koreans have not yet set a date for renewing the talks, the ball is in their court. "We've been very clear that the North Koreans have on the table a proposal that should be incentive enough for them to come back to the talks in a spirit to actually try and do something constructive," Secretary Rice said.  "No, it's not enough to just return to the talks.  You have to be willing to come back and talk about what the talks are about.  And that is: the dismantling of the North Korean nuclear program."

Secretary Rice added, the other five parties to the talks: the U.S., China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, are committed to keeping the Korean peninsula nuclear free.