Joint Press Conference with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Afghan President Hamid Karzai (Excerpts)

January 30, 2006

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • Iran
  • Russia

. . .

QUESTION: I'm talking about Iran. There seems to be some disparity now between the European and the American position in regards to (inaudible). Apparently the opinion polls (inaudible) like John McCain (inaudible) were saying that we want to keep that leverage, I think is the phrase -- leverage of possible military action.

At the same time, you've got the Russian potential compromise to enrich the uranium for the Iranians, so there's no danger in using enriched uranium for military purposes. What's your message to Iran today?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, on the Russian proposal, we were supportive, first of all, with the way that the Russians structured the Bushehr nuclear reactor with a fuel take-back provision. We think the Russian proposal is a good basis for, perhaps, finding a way for the Iranians to have peaceful nuclear uses, because it does not permit the fuel cycle, the enrichment and reprocessing, which is the dangerous part of the fuel cycle, on Iranian territory.

That proposal, however, has been out there for some time. It's not as if the Russians proposed this last week. This has now been several months. So, when the Iranians now evince interest in the Russian proposal, one has to wonder if that isn't because they now face the prospect of referral to the Security Council. And even in evincing that interest, they have done so, saying that the Russian proposal is -- I believe they said inadequate to their cause.

So, let's remember what happened here. We, several months ago, tabled -- there was a resolution to refer the states that voted for that resolution and the Board of Governors agreed that we would not go through with a referral to give time for the Iranians to respond. And how did they respond? They responded by breaking their moratorium, ending negotiations, and breaking the seals on the equipment so that they could enrich and reprocess.

So, I think we've had our answer from the Iranian government. It's not a very satisfactory one. And I look forward to the meeting tonight of the P-5. I also look forward to the special meeting of the Board of Governors. But it seems to me we have quite a lot of agreement among the international community here that Iran should not be allowed to get a nuclear weapon and that also means denying them the technologies that could lead to breakout capacity for a nuclear weapon, that they need to suspend the activities that they have reengaged in and they need to go back to negotiations.

Differences about tactics and timing, there may be, but I don't hear anyone saying to the Iranians that they're on the right side of this issue. And so, the Iranians need to hear that message.

As to military issues, we have said that it is not on the agenda because we believe that there is a lot of life left in the diplomacy. There is a diplomatic solution for the taking. After all, going to the Security Council is not the end of diplomacy; it's just diplomacy in a different, more robust context. But the President of the United States doesn't take his options off the table and frankly, I don't think people should want the President of the United States to take his options off the table.

. . .

QUESTION: India has said that it's going to abstain from the IAEA vote following some comments from your Ambassador in New Delhi. You have said all along that you would like to have consensus on Iran. Does India's abstention weaken your case and will this affect the deal that you are currently negotiating with India?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I'm not going to react to an anonymous quote from an Indian Government official. We will see what happens when we come to the vote. India is a sovereign country. It has to make its decisions in conjunction with its interest. That's what we expect. It is the character of a partnership that we believe that we have had good discussions on this and I do believe that the Indians are committed, as the entire international community is, to not having an Iran that is nuclear-armed. And so we will continue to have discussions not just with India but with Russia, with China and with other states in the lead-up to the Board of Governors meeting. The European Union-3 called for this extraordinary meeting because they felt, and we believe, that it is time to have a referral.

As I said to the gentleman earlier, we've been down this road before of saying, well, if the Iranians don't do something, then we will refer. The fact is, the last time we said if the Iranians don't do something, then we will refer, they did something. They walked out of the talks. They broke the seals. They unilaterally ended their moratorium and began preparation for reprocessing and enrichment. I think there's a lesson in that and I think that all of those who are committed to and dedicated to nonproliferation and to solving the Iranian problem need to take heed of the way the Iranians have behaved.

Thank you.