- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2007

BERLIN — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency in unusually strong terms yesterday, rejecting a recent suggestion that Iran be allowed limited uranium enrichment as an inappropriate attempt to interfere in Security Council diplomacy.

Miss Rice also questioned last week’s report of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which said Tehran could build a nuclear weapon in three to eight years.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA director-general, said after the report came out that it is time to accept the “reality” that Iran has mastered certain capabilities and let it enrich a limited amount of uranium as a way to break the diplomatic deadlock with the West.

“I’m not one who agrees that somehow, because the Iranians are continuing to make progress or are purported to continue to make progress on certain kinds of technologies, that it’s time to abandon the requirement that they suspend,” Miss Rice said.

“Doing it once or even doing it a couple of times doesn’t mean that you are capable of doing it in an extended period of time to do the sorts of things that you need to actually be able to enrich material,” she told reporters on her way to Berlin.

The five permanent U.N. Security Council members — the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia — plus Germany demanded a year ago that Tehran suspend enrichment in exchange for better political and economic relations.

Miss Rice bluntly urged Mr. ElBaradei yesterday to stay out of the negotiations, which are led by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and top Iranian security adviser Ali Larijani.

“The key here is that the IAEA is not an agency that is negotiating with the Iranians,” Miss Rice said. “That’s being done under Security Council resolutions by six states, and I just think it’s appropriate for those six states to determine what the diplomatic course ought to be.”

Even though Miss Rice will travel to Vienna, Austria, where the IAEA is based, she said she will not meet with Mr. ElBaradei.

Unlike Miss Rice, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki praised the IAEA chief.

“Naturally, we approve of part of ElBaradei’s comments, and that is admitting to Iran’s nuclear capacity and Iran’s entry to industrial nuclear fuel production,” Mr. Mottaki was quoted by wire reports as saying.

Miss Rice said Iran’s nuclear program will be on the agenda of today’s meeting in Potsdam, in eastern Germany, of foreign ministers from the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries.

She said the question is, “Do we stay within the context and tighten the sanctions in the areas that we are currently operating in, or do we start to look outside of that?”

The main focus of the G-8, which is led by Germany this year, has been climate change. Other members are Canada, the U.S., Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Russia.

The United States rejected a draft declaration in which German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government proposed committing the West to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to specific levels, as well as a trading plan among polluters.

The European members of the group are expected to clash with the U.S. delegation, both today and at the summit of leaders next week. Japan is likely to support the United States, which prefers a voluntary approach.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meeting with Mrs. Merkel hours before Miss Rice’s arrival here, agreed with her hostess that a multilateral accord is necessary.

“I completely associate myself with the chancellor’s comments that these solutions must be multilateral,” the speaker said, although she stopped short of endorsing the German draft.

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