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U.S. Believes Diplomacy Can Address Iranian Nuclear Threat, Rice Says

By Howard Cincotta, Washington File Special Correspondent

Washington -- The United States believes the international community is united in its determination to use diplomatic means to prevent Iran's development of technologies that can lead to nuclear weapons, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in two television news interviews February 12.

Iran is only isolating itself by rejecting negotiations and withdrawing its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rice said on CBS's Face the Nation and ABC's This Week.

"Iran has a path to a peaceful nuclear program," she said on ABC's This Week.  "The Russians have given them a proposal.  The Europeans gave them a proposal.  There are many ways that they could seek a peaceful nuclear program."

On the other hand, Rice warned, Iran has misled the international community for 18 years about the nature of its nuclear program and cannot be trusted with dangerous technologies that could be used for weapons development.

"An Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a threat, a grave threat, to international peace and security.  I think everybody understands that," she said.

The international community -- including nations such as Russia, China, India and Brazil -- has demonstrated its unity by referring Iran to the United Nations Security Council, Rice said on CBS's Face the Nation.  By foregoing weapons technology, she said, Iran "can have a path to peaceful nuclear energy and they can be back in the community of responsible states."

On CBS's Face the Nation, Rice said that she personally found the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten's cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad offensive and could understand the genuine outrage that many people felt about them.

At the same time, she added, "It's just very important to draw a distinction between people who go out and protest peacefully, [from] the incitement to violence that is really beyond the pale."

Rice accused the governments of Syria and Iran, in particular, of inciting and abetting violence.  "The violence and going into the streets and burning embassies and killing innocent people is totally unacceptable, and there are leaders in the Muslim world who have spoken out against that like the Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq," she said on CBS's Face the Nation.

Asked on CBS's Face the Nation about Russian plans to meet with Hamas, Rice said that Russia adheres to the position of the Middle East Quartet that any Palestinian government must recognize Israel's right to exist, reject violence and accept a two-state solution as the only path to peace and security for all.

The Middle East Quartet members are Russia, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations.

"The Russians assure us that anything that they say to Hamas will simply be to reinforce that message," she said.

Rice rejected the notion that isolating Russia would be an appropriate response to policy differences or concerns over restrictions on democracy.  A better approach, she said, is engagement to bring Russia into international institutions like the NATO-Russia Council and the G8. 

The United States can then say, " 'Yes, we want you in these institutions, but we expect behavior that is consistent with the values of those institutions,' and indeed challenge not just Vladimir Putin but Russia as a whole," the secretary said.

The transcripts of Rice's interviews on ABC's This Week and CBS's Face the Nation are available on the State Department Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:


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