- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2013

Secretary of State John F. Kerry struck a tough note Friday on Iran, saying that there is still a chance for diplomacy but that the administration is “prepared to do whatever is necessary” to deny the regime nuclear weapons.

Speaking at the end of his first week as the nation’s top diplomat, Mr. Kerry also said his department is still studying the issue of whether to permit the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring oil from Canada’s tar sands to the U.S.

Mr. Kerry, who appeared before reporters at Foggy Bottom after holding private talks with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, was quick to home in first on the issue of ongoing tension over Iran’s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“I want to underscore to Iran, the window for diplomacy is still open,” he said, though he stressed that the U.S.’s position is that Iran must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.

“The choice is really ultimately up to Iran,” said Mr. Kerry, who is completing his first week as secretary of state after succeeding Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The remarks follow a tense week of rhetoric between Washington and Tehran.

While Iranian government officials have agreed to partake in talks with the United States and other international powers next month in Kazakhstan, the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader said that “talks will not solve any problems.”

“You are holding a gun against Iran saying you want to talk. The Iranian nation will not be frightened by the threats,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, according to wire reports.

Mr. Kerry appeared to be responding to the remarks when he said Friday that Iran should come to the negotiations “prepared to talk real substance and to address the concerns, which could not be more clear, about their nuclear program.”

“If they don’t, then they will choose to leave themselves more isolated,” Mr. Kerry said. “That’s the choice.”

The upcoming talks are slated to include officials from Russia, China, France, Germany, Britain and the United States, and they represent the latest attempt of the international community to avoid a military clash with Iran over its nuclear program.

The U.S. and others have long pushed Tehran to disclose information to prove that the program is not geared toward developing a nuclear warhead. Iranian officials have resisted, while arguing publicly that the program is peaceful.

Mr. Baird, Canada’s foreign minister, bolstered Mr. Kerry’s remarks Friday, saying that “the threat of a nuclear armed Iran is the biggest threat to international peace and security.” He added, however, that he agreed with the “view that a diplomatic solution is possible.”

Keystone XL talks

Mr. Baird otherwise focused his remarks on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline application that the Obama administration must decide on.

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