- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In yet another effort to find a peaceful solution to the Iran nuclear crisis, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday announced that the United States will join the European Union in negotiating with Tehran, provided the regime “fully and verifiably” suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities. Miss Rice offered Iran a choice: suspend all enrichment and reprocessing activities and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and end its political isolation, or continue its present course of thumbing its nose at the international community.

If Tehran cooperates, Miss Rice emphasized, the benefits for the Iranian people “would go beyond civil nuclear energy and could include progressively greater economic cooperation. The United States will actively support these benefits, both publicly and privately.” In conjunction with the Europeans, Washington is developing a plan that will in essence provide diplomatic and economic rewards for coming clean about its nuclear program. But if Iran continues its defiance, “it will only incur great costs. We and our European partners agree that path will lead to international isolation and progressively stronger political and economic sanctions,” she said. She also said that President Bush has not taken the military option off the table.

In the next few days in Vienna, Austria, the United States will be discussing with the Europeans a package of incentives aimed at persuading Iran to end its cheating and its attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Miss Rice added Mr. Bush envisions a positive relationship between the American and Iranian peoples, “a beneficial relationship of increased contacts in education and cultural exchange, in sports and travel and trade and investment.” But she added that Tehran continues to put roadblocks in the way of better relations with the American people. “The nuclear issue… is not the only obstacle standing in the way of improved relations. The Iranian government supports terror. It is involved in violence in Iraq. And it is undercutting the restoration of full sovereignty in Lebanon under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559,” she noted.

The Rice proposal was warmly received by French, British and European Union envoys. But they may be less enthusiastic once they see how determined that the Bush administration is to force Iran to choose between keeping its nuclear weapons programs intact and ending its international pariah status. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said yesterday that Mr. Bush has no intention of permitting Iran to drag out negotiations as it did the talks with the EU, which have been occurring since 2003. Mr. Bolton pointedly noted that Iran subsequently boasted that it tricked the Europeans into a prolonged negotiation in order to buy time for its nuclear program. Mr. Bolton said Mr. Bush “is a man of his word” when he says that Iran cannot be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons.

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