Rice, Cheney Warn of Iranian Nuclear Threat, Urge U.N. Action
By Petty Officer 3rd Class John R. Guardiano, USN
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2006 Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have denounced the Iranian government's resumption of uranium enrichment research and urged that the matter be referred to the U. N. Security Council for more intense and effective diplomatic actions.
The Iranian government "appears to be on the path to develop nuclear weapons," Cheney said on the nationally syndicated Tony Snow radio program Jan. 11. "This is an increasingly significant problem that the world is going to have to address."
Speaking at a Washington news briefing yesterday, Rice agreed. The U.N. Security Council, she said, "should call for the Iranian regime to step away from its nuclear weapons ambitions. The United States will encourage the Security Council to achieve this end."
Rice emphasized that the United States is working toward a diplomatic solution. "We continue to encourage a peaceful, diplomatic solution to this issue," she said, "which spares the world from the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran, and which benefits the Iranian people with the possibility of renewed relations and integration with the international community."
The Iranian government had permitted the International Atomic Energy Agency to oversee and to inspect its nuclear program since 2003. But earlier this week the Iranian government broke the agency's seals on a nuclear plant in Natanz so it could resume uranium enrichment research.
Enriched uranium can be used to produce nuclear weapons. But Iran's president, Mahomoud Ahmadinejad, has disavowed this intent. The Iranian government, he has said, is interested only in developing nuclear power for peaceful, civilian purposes. Nuclear power, for example, can be used to generate electricity.
Cheney dismissed Mahomoud's claim. The Iranian government, he observed, has been offered, and it has rejected, "a guaranteed source of fuel that would be enriched only to the level necessary to run a civilian reactor."
Indeed, the Russian government had offered to secure Iran's spent fuel so that it couldn't be reprocessed for nuclear weapons-grade plutonium. This would have allowed Iran to enjoy nuclear energy, but not nuclear weapons. However, Cheney said, the Iranian government rejected this offer.
"What they want," he said, "is the ability to enrich the uranium themselves; and that would allow them to take it up to a much higher level and purity that is required for nuclear weapons."
This is disconcerting, Cheney noted, because the Iranian government "has been one of the prime terror-sponsoring states in the world (and) a prime mover behind Hezbollah," a Shiia Islamist group the United States considers a terrorist organization. Given Iran's track record and some of the more outrageous statements the country's new president has made, Cheney said, "Ahmadinejad doesn't inspire confidence ... in anyone."
Ahmadinejad has helped to seal the view that Iran is a very dangerous power, Rice said. "And since nobody trusts Iran's protestations that this would be a peaceful program," she added, "people are duly alarmed."
The Bush administration has been trying to resolve this growing problem through diplomacy, in coordination with its British, French and German allies in the European Union.
Cheney said these efforts so far have been unsuccessful, but Rice cautioned that this is "not the end of diplomacy."
"We now enter a new phase in diplomacy," she said. "I don't think it serves anybody's interests to have a nuclear-armed Iran."
That new phase, Rice said, involves a European Union request for an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors. At that meeting, the IAEA would "report Iran's noncompliance with its ... obligations to the U.N. Security Council," Rice explained.
The secretary declined to discuss specific actions that the Security Council could or would take. "There are a variety of options, a variety of tools at the disposal of the international community," she said.
But Iranian government officials continue to be defiant. According to the Iranian state-run media, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said this week that if the U.N. Security Council takes up Iran's nuclear program, his country will cease cooperating with the IAEA.
Iran's "right to develop and to access nuclear technology must not be limited by any outside country," he is quoted as saying.
Rice expressed hope that the Iranian government would be more cooperative once it realizes that its defiance has brought down upon it the universal reproach by the international community.
"I would hope that seeing the very powerful reaction of the international community, Iran would now take a step back and look at the isolation that it is about to experience," she said. "The Iranian people, frankly, deserve better."