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QUESTION: (In Arabic.)
(Via interpreter) The question is for the Egyptian Foreign Minister. During your remarks you forgot about the issue of Iran and my question is regarding Iran. It seems like the American position is clear vis-Ã -vis Iran; however, the Egyptian position seems to be a little bit unclear. Is Egypt prepared to discuss the issue of Iran away from the issue of the nuclear armed forces of the state of Israel? Will Egypt accept any kind of an escalation that might lead to the use of a regional force or American force against an Islamic state and will Egypt accept the policy of isolating the state of Iran as a part of this issue despite the fact that there may be some views on this in the Gulf states?
FOREIGN MINISTER GHEIT: (In Arabic.)
(Via interpreter.) Regarding your questions and the various elements that were involved in that question, Egypt's position is very clear about the NPT and the universality of that agreement. Also, in terms of the Egyptians' views, we strongly believe that the region should be free of weapons of mass destruction and free of any nuclear weapons.
Regarding the IAEA decision, Egypt plays a very important role and at Egypt's insistence there was a reference in that statement that the Middle East region should be free of WMDs. Egypt's position is clear and it has been clear. We do not accept any nuclear presence or weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.
And regarding Israel and these questions, our conversations with them has always been very clear that we are asking Israel to join the NPT and because of the universality of that agreement.
Regarding any military actions or a threat of the U.S. military force, Egypt's position is also equally clear. We support very consistent and systematic diplomatic efforts. Our positions either if this issue will be referred to the IAEA, which already issued one report and the second one will be coming on March 6th, or if the UN Security Council will look into this. So far it is only a report that is submitted to the United Nations Security Council and we are all waiting for the full report that will be presented by Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the Secretary General of the IAEA, and for the report that will be submitted after the vote on March 6th.
FOREIGN MINISTER GHEIT: (In English.) And it is not a referral.
SECRETARY RICE: In fact, it is.
FOREIGN MINISTER GHEIT: There we differ. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me go back just for one moment for Iraq and remind that it was not the United States of America that assessed alone that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Seventeen resolutions had passed telling him to cooperate with the world, and he didn't. So the history here is very important because the United States did not stand alone in its assessment of the dangers of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
As to Iran, I think you only have to look around the world at how people are reacting to the Iranian program, whether it is the reports from the IAEA that they have not yet gotten full cooperation from Iran, or the fact that the Russians when they designed a civil nuclear program with Iran refused to allow Iran to keep the fuel cycle and designed a fuel take-back, or the concerns that have been raised by Dr. ElBaradei about the secrecy of Iranian activities.
Again, there is a general sense in the world that the Iranian program is a problem. Iran lied for 18 years about what it was doing with the IAEA. I assume that they didn't tell the truth for some reason. But the point now is that they have to be confronted with a need to get their program -- if they're going to get a civil nuclear program, to have it be in accordance with what the world can tolerate, and that means that they do not have enrichment and reprocessing capability.
And just on the little issue that -- the formal title or the formal name, as you know, Ahmed, is to report a state to the Security Council, so Iran has been reported to the Security Council. It will be taken up after the ElBaradei report is there on March 6th.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we all hope that there's going to be a Middle East one day in which the security situation is such that no one has to worry about weapons of mass destruction. The issue right now is that Iran needs to live up to the expectations of the international community.
I want to just make one other point. This is not about civil nuclear power for Iran. Iran would like to make this a debate about their right to civil nuclear power. We're not questioning civil nuclear power. They can have it. They just can't have enrichment and reprocessing capability because no one trusts them with that very important technology which could lead to a bomb.
SECRETARY RICE: The President never takes any option off the table but we are dedicated to a diplomatic course. And I think that with the help of the international community, from Egypt and other important countries, that we will be able to convince Iran that it does not wish to have isolation on this issue.
FOREIGN MINISTER GHEIT: We have been always calling for a diplomatic solution for that issue.
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