Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Iran's claims of an advance in uranium enrichment will require strong steps by the U.N. Security Council when it reconvenes on the issue at the end of the month. The secretary promised a steady U.S. diplomatic effort on the issue.
Secretary Rice says Iran's defiance of calls that it stop uranium enrichment will require strong action by the U.N. Security Council if the council is to maintain its credibility.
But Rice also says the United States is pursuing a steady diplomatic course on the issue, with officials saying the Bush administration is not seeking emergency action by the Security Council, despite Tuesday's Iranian announcement.
The secretary's comments added to a growing chorus of international concern about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's assertion that Iran was moving toward enriching uranium on an industrial scale for what Tehran says are peaceful purposes.
Rice addressed the Iranian nuclear issue in a talk with reporters as she began a meeting with the President of Equatorial Guinea, saying the Iranian leader's statement is just a step that will further isolate the Tehran government.
"It demonstrates that Iran is not adhering to the international community's requirements," she said. "And I do think that the Security Council will need to take into consideration this move by Iran, and that it will be time, when it reconvenes on this case, for strong steps to make certain that we maintain the credibility of the international community on this issue."
Rice said the Bush administration would be steady in its diplomatic track on the Iranian nuclear issue, because it believes that concerted and coherent diplomatic policy will convince the Iranians to return to compliance with international demands.
Earlier this week, administration officials downplayed news reports the administration was contemplating military action against Iran, though saying no options had been foreclosed.
The Bush administration has long said that Iran's nominally peaceful nuclear program has a concealed weapons component.
Rice said again the current conflict is not about Iran's right to have a civil nuclear-power program, but she said the world does not believe it should have the capability and technology that can lead to a nuclear weapon.
State Department officials said the United States is not asking for any change in the Security Council timetable for action on the Iranian issue.
The council is due to convene April 28 to hear a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran's response to the so-called president's statement it issued late last month calling on it to halt sensitive nuclear activities.
The officials said Rice telephoned IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei to ask him to reinforce demands that Iran comply with its non-proliferation requirements when he told talks in Tehran later this week.
Russia has joined Germany, France and the United States in calling for Iran to halt its nuclear program, one day after its president said Tehran had successfully enriched uranium for the first time. A supporter of Iran, Russia has been seeking a diplomatic solution to the nuclear stand-off with Tehran.
Russia's Foreign Ministry says Moscow considers Iran's latest step "wrong", and runs counter to U.N. resolutions on the issue.
Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said Russia was concerned by Tuesday's speech by Iran's president that Tehran has successfully enriched uranium.
Officially the enriched fuel is only meant to be used in Iran's nuclear energy program. But the United States and Europe believe the ultimate aim is to develop atomic weapons.
Russia has long tried to convince Iran to halt its attempts at uranium enrichment, and has proposed that the fuel it needs for nuclear reactors be enriched in Russia instead.
But while agreeing to discuss that idea, Iran has insisted it has the right to enrich its own uranium.
Russia is Iran's major supplier of nuclear-power technology, but has also added its voice to Western nations that have criticized Iran.
The Kremlin is firmly against any talk of possible military action, a point reiterated by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.
Lavrov says he has heard reports in the media about possible U.S. military moves, but Russia believes this would only create another "hotbed of tension" in the Middle East.
Lavrov was referring to a New Yorker magazine article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that the Bush administration is reviewing possible bombing strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.
While saying that "all options remain on the table", President Bush has dismissed the reports, which are attributed to an anonymous source.
Government officials in Germany, France, and Great Britain have also expressed concern about Iran's latest move.
In London a British Foreign Office spokesman said Iran "needs to get back into compliance, and their statements are not helpful."
The director of the IAEA, Mohammed El Baradei, is to visit Iran for talks aimed at resolving the stand-off.
The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran stop all enrichment by April 28, due to suspicion that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
Uranium enrichment produces the fuel needed to power a nuclear energy reactor, it can also produce material for a nuclear warhead.
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