- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 9, 2005

BRUSSELS — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday urged European allies to get tough with Iran and to make it clear that Tehran faces possible U.N. sanctions if it does not stop making nuclear fuel.

“The international community has got to be certain to speak with one very tough voice to the Iranians that it is not going to be acceptable for Iran to build a nuclear weapon under cover of civilian nuclear power,” Miss Rice said in an interview with Fox News prior to attending a meeting of NATO ministers in Brussels.

Her admonishment illustrated a continuing disagreement with leading European allies despite the overall tone of Miss Rice’s overseas debut as the nation’s top diplomat, which was billed as a “fence-mending” visit to repair ties that were strained over Iraq.

In Washington, President Bush delivered an equally tough message to Iran yesterday.

“The Iranians just need to know that the free world is working together to send a very clear message: Don’t develop a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Bush said during a meeting with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

The comments came as Britain, Germany and France held a third round of talks with Iran in Geneva about a deal that would provide economic benefits and security guarantees if Iran abandons efforts to enrich uranium — a fuel for both atomic bombs and nuclear-power plants.

“The Iranians need to hear that, if they are unwilling to take the deal, really, that the Europeans are giving them, if they are unwilling to live with the verification measures …, then the Security Council referral looms,” Miss Rice said

“I don’t know that anyone has said that as clearly as they should to the Iranians,” she said.

During a press conference at the NATO headquarters in Brussels later in the day, Miss Rice said, “I believe that a diplomatic solution is in our grasp, if we can have unity of purpose, unity of message with the Iranians, and if the Iranians understand that the international community is quite serious about it living up to its obligations.”

Aides traveling with Miss Rice said the message about Security Council referral, which could lead to sanctions, has not been given to Iran because the Europeans are divided over the wisdom of such action.

“Some of them support referral, and some don’t,” a senior State Department official said.

Referral to the Security Council would require approval by the 35-member Board of Governors of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, where Europe’s support is essential.

Britain has moved closer to the U.S. position, but Germany and France say the negotiations have a better chance of reaching a deal without the threat of U.N. action.

Iran issued an ultimatum of its own yesterday, with President Mohammed Khatami warning of “massive” consequences if it was treated unfairly over its nuclear program.

“We give our guarantee that we will not produce nuclear weapons because we’re against them and do not believe they are a source of power,” Mr. Khatami told foreign ambassadors in Tehran. “But we will not give up peaceful nuclear technology.”

Iran has suspended its program to enrich uranium while it continues to negotiate with the Europeans, but Mr. Khatami reiterated Iran’s position that the action was temporary.

He also issued an apparent threat to the United States.

“Those who have been thumping the drums of war and have launched psychological warfare against Iran must know that the Iranian people will not allow the aggressors to put one foot on Iranian soil,” he said.

“But if this ever arrives, the aggressors will be burned in … the storm of the people’s anger.”

Miss Rice said the Bush administration has not “set any timetables” for resolving the dispute because “the Iranians know what they need to do.”

In his State of the Union speech last week, Mr. Bush delivered what sounded like an ultimatum to Iran’s Islamic government.

“Today, Iran remains the world’s primary state sponsor of terror — pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. … The Iranian regime must give up its uranium-enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing and end its support for terror,” he said.

“And, to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.”

Miss Rice completes her weeklong tour of Europe and the Middle East today with a visit to Luxembourg, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union for the first six months of the year.

This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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