NBC’s Meet the Press Interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Iran (Excerpts)

March 26, 2006

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QUESTION: Why won't the Russians help us get sanctions in the United Nations against Iran and try to stop them from developing nuclear weapons?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we're not yet at the stage where we're seeking sanctions. What we're doing now is we're seeking a presidential statement that would make clear to Iran the international community's determination that it live up to the obligations that everyone thinks that Iran has. We're working through it. We have the same strategy here. We have the same view of the problem.

The Russians do not want a nuclear weapon in Iran either. It's been very clear in everything that they have tried to do, in the way that they set up the civil nuclear cooperation with Bushehr, in what they offered the Iranians that the Russians also do not believe that there should be enrichment and reprocessing capability on Iranian soil. And enrichment and reprocessing capability is the core here. If you're able to enrich and reprocess, then the ability to build a bomb is there. And so we and the Russians, the Chinese and certainly the Europeans have the same view of what is to be prevented.

Yes, we've had some tactical differences on how to get there. But I talked with my Russian counterpart on Friday. We agreed that our people would go back and work very hard this weekend and we'll see where we are on Monday. We are considering whether it might be a good idea to get -- after we have a presidential statement -- get ministers together again with the P-5, the permanent five of the Security Council plus Germany, to talk about charting a course forward because everybody takes very seriously Iran's intransigence and Iran's unwillingness to do what the international community is determined that it will do.

QUESTION: It is the policy of our government that Iran will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon.

SECRETARY RICE: Tim, Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. That is the view of the international community, not just the United States.

QUESTION: This article was in The New York Times.

"The reality is that most of us think the Iranians are probably going to get a weapon or the technology to make one sooner or later. An Administration official acknowledged a few weeks ago, refusing to talk on the record because such an admission amounts to a concession that dragging Iran in front of the United Nations Security Council may prove an exercise in futility. The optimists around here" -- about the White House -- "just hope we can delay the day by 10 or 20 years and that by that time we'll have a different relationship with a different Iranian Government."

That seems like a much different policy.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, since I don't know who this anonymous person is, I can't tell you what relationship they may have to the policy. I'll tell you who doesn't think that. I don't believe that. I don't believe that the President believes that because we're doing everything that we can to send a strong signal to the Iranians that they have no choice. If they wish to be a part of the international community, they have no choice but to give up ambitions that could lead to the technologies that would lead to a nuclear weapon. If the international community stays really solid here, Iran cannot stand the kind of isolation from the international community that, for instance, North Korea endures almost by choice. We really do have a chance to solve this diplomatically but, Tim, I would be the first to say we can't afford to waste time. That's why we need our people in New York to really work toward this first phase. We need to see if that has an effect on the Iranians. And if it does not have an effect on the Iranians, we need to move to the next phase.

QUESTION: Which is?

SECRETARY RICE: The next phase is to look to further options in the Security Council, for instance, perhaps the Chapter VII resolution.

QUESTION: Which is?

SECRETARY RICE: Chapter VII resolution essentially gives the UN or the Security Council the ability to compel a state to act. It can say that there would be consequences if actions are not taken.

QUESTION: Including military?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, no one ever takes anything off the table, but I believe we're a long way from that. We have the possibilities of financial measures that could be taken, bans against travel. There are a lot of options once you're in the Security Council. That's why it was very important to get this dossier, Iranian dossier, to the Security Council and why the diplomacy that we've been working over the last couple of years to get the Europeans and the United States on the same page and to now bring the Russians and the Chinese along has been so important.

QUESTION: Do you believe if the President chose to embark on military action with Iran, he would go to Congress for authorization first?

SECRETARY RICE: I'm not going to speculate on that. The President is clear that he keeps all of his options on the table. But, Tim, I think speculating about how we might set up military action isn't helpful at a time when we really are concentrating on the diplomacy. But I want to be very clear --

QUESTION: But you wouldn't go to Congress?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Tim, of course the Administration went to Congress the last time. And I would just ask people to look at the history of how this President has acted. He has taken Congress as a full partner in these matters. But I'm not going to get into a discussion of what the President may or may not do constitutionally.

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