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07/23/08

Rice Says Iran Has Not Been Serious in Nuclear Talks

By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr., Staff Writer, America.gov

Iran has been given two weeks to respond to latest offer

Washington -- The United States and five other world powers have shown they are serious that Iranian leaders must decide whether to halt Iran's uranium enrichment program, which could be used in manufacturing nuclear weapons, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"And I think it's also very clear that there are going to be consequences if they don't," Rice says. According to Rice, the current strategy is to get the Iranian regime to stop uranium enrichment and to accept a package of incentives. If the regime does not stop, she says, there is enough agreement among the six countries to bring additional sanctions through the U.N. Security Council.

Rice spoke for the first time July 21 about a meeting held two days earlier in Geneva between Iranian representatives and representatives from the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. William Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, represented the United States at that meeting, Rice said, and it should indicate just how seriously the United States is taking this situation.

"I think we've done enough to demonstrate that the United States is serious, and to assure our partners that we're serious, and to show the Iranians that we're serious. I think we've done enough," she said in a briefing while en route to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for meetings with Gulf Council countries and other Middle Eastern nations.

Javier Solana, the European Union's high representative for the common foreign and security policy, offered a package of incentives to the Iranians on behalf of the six world powers, Rice said. "We expected to hear an answer from the Iranians, but as has been the case so many times with the Iranians, what came through was not serious," she said.

In return, Solana gave the Iranians two weeks to respond. "I thought that Solana was absolutely firm and clear that it's time for the Iranians to give a serious answer," Rice said. "It clarifies Iran's choices. And we will see what Iran does in two weeks."

Rice said that if Iran does not respond by halting uranium enrichment, then the next steps will be taken at the Security Council, which has already imposed three sets of economic and related sanctions on Iran. "I don't expect any imminent action," she said.

Rice said these talks in Geneva have given the diplomatic process a new kind of energy. The process has tried to keep the door open to resolving the situation without further punitive measures if Iran resists.

Any discussion about having an interests section in Tehran, which would allow for some limited diplomatic contact but not full diplomatic relations, should not be considered as a thawing of relations, Rice said. The United States has had an interests section in Cuba since 1978.

The United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran in 1979.

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