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Iranian Uranium Enrichment Poses Proliferation Risk, Rice Says

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 7, 2006 – There is still time for Iran to suspend its plans to enrich uranium and avoid sanctions, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said here today.

"We still hope that this can be resolved," the secretary said during a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, "but it's going to require the Iranians to suspend their activities, to re-enter the moratorium and to do a number of other steps which are outlined in that February 4th resolution."

The Feb. 4 resolution refers to an International Atomic Energy Agency report sent to the U.N. Security Council suggesting requirements Iran must meet to avoid U.N. sanctions.

The Iranians claim that they intend to enrich uranium for nuclear energy purposes only, but the United States and several European allies fear Iran will use the uranium to build nuclear weapons and spread the technology elsewhere. "I think the United States has been very clear that enrichment and reprocessing on Iranian soil is not acceptable because of the proliferation risk," Rice said.

"What is crucial is to make sure that the international community clarifies all questions related to the past program of Iran, while at the same time not allowing the risk of violation of the nonproliferation regime," Lavrov added.

The Iranian government recently rejected a Russian proposal to enter into a joint enrichment agreement, where Russia would provide Iran with enriched uranium.

"Our well-known suggestion to have a joint venture to enrich uranium on Russian territory to provide for the fuel needs of Iran was made, and we repeatedly stated that it's only in this context that this joint venture initiative is available," Lavrov said.

Rice said the U.S. supported the Russian proposal because it would minimize the proliferation risk and still provide Iran with the nuclear power it desires. The secretary said the Bush administration does not dispute Iran's right to obtain nuclear energy.

"This is not an issue of Iran's right to civil nuclear power," she said. "There needs to be a way to provide for civil nuclear power that does not have a proliferation risk, and we think ... this could be achieved.

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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

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