Press Briefing with Acting Department of State Spokesman Tom Casey on Russia and Iran (Excerpts)

March 13, 2006

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the start of another exciting week at the State Department. I don't have any statements for you so, Barry, why don't we get right to your questions.

QUESTION: Let's see if you can straighten out a little bit the Iran nuclear situation. There are reports that Russia is going to have another round of talks. Have you -- has the U.S. been informed by the Russians? If you have, do you have a view of this? And what do you suppose Russia's intentions are?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, let me just make clear that in New York today there have been another round of consultations among the P-5. Obviously Russia has been participating in those. We very much believe that the focus of our activities now should be in the Security Council. We certainly have welcomed in the past Russia's diplomatic efforts with Iran and we've seen press reports that there may, in fact, be another round of consultations coming.

You know, I think I would refer you as well to some of the comments that Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has made expressing his disappointment with the way Iran has been conducting itself throughout the course of the negotiations and certainly being, you know, absolutely not helpful in any efforts to resolve this situation.

And again, I think we also need to keep the emphasis where it needs to be. The international community has made it abundantly clear to Iran what is required of it and what needs to be done. Russia has been very much part of that consensus and very much helpful in that process. And right now, as we move to the Security Council, again the facts are pretty clear. Iran knows what it needs to do, and what we're waiting to see is whether the Iranians will finally make the decision that's been asked of them and been required of them by the international community for some time.

So certainly we look forward to continuing our work with the Russians on this and expect that we'll be moving forward again through this consultative process in the Security Council.

Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: No, I wanted -- excuse me.

MR. CASEY: Sorry. Go ahead, Barry.

QUESTION: I wanted to focus on Russia because everything else you said has been said by Rice on the airplane or someplace and it's going on at the UN. We know that. What we don't know, at least I don't know, and you say there are reports of Russia wanting to have them, but those reports have been out there for easily eight hours. Has the U.S. determined whether Russia is offering a new round of talks with Iran? Because that could presumably detract from the focus being at the UN. And if the Russians haven't informed you, do you have -- does the U.S. have a view of whether there should be bilateral talks, I suppose even while the UN is discussing the situation, or would you have the UN put it off for a while to see the outcome of these talks, which may be Russia's aim?

MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I think if you look at how we have moved about this process, the IAEA has actively worked on and considered the issue of Iran's nuclear program even while negotiations were ongoing with the EU-3. Those efforts were joint and were all part of achieving the same international community objective. The negotiations with the Russians on their proposal, which again we've supported, were done in the same context.

Certainly additional consultations between the Russians and the Iranians is not something that is inconsistent with our efforts in the Security Council to take up this issue, to discuss it among Council members. And as we've said, as an initial starting point, we'd like to see a presidential statement that reaffirms the decisions made by the IAEA and that again calls on Iran to take the necessary steps.

QUESTION: So I hear that and that says more about what you think of the proposition. But if I'm correct, the U.S. hasn't been notified by Russia of further talks.

MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of.


MR. CASEY: Unless something's happened in New York just in the last couple of hours.


QUESTION: If you could just be a little bit more clear about whether you see a potential Russia deal with Iran? Is there still a chance for that before you take any action at the Council, or you kind of made the decision to go ahead and try and get this presidential statement, trying to get action in the Council regardless of what happens with Russia and Iran at this point?

MR. CASEY: Again, the process is driven by Iran's actions. If Iran stands up today and does a complete 180, turns around and says we would now agree to abide by all the international community's requirement as laid out in the February 4 Board of Governors resolution, if it wants to return to the negotiating table and work out a real deal with the Russians, as opposed to some of the delaying tactics that we've seen with them, that would be wonderful. We, however, have no indication that Iran is prepared to accept Russia's proposal or its conditions.

And again, that is why Iran finds itself in the place it is. Iran has repeatedly refused to meet the requirements and demands of the international community. And it really is up to the Iranians to make the determination to do so. What we're doing in the Security Council is again taking that next step in our diplomatic process to try and convince Iran to do exactly that. But if they would like to change their minds, if they would like to come around, if they would like to end their two years of defiance of requirements and requests from the international community, we would certainly like to see it. But unfortunately, we have no indication that that's going to occur.


QUESTION: You mention the negotiating table. Repeatedly we've heard Secretary Rice and others in the State Department say that the report to the Security Council just opens up another forum for diplomatic negotiation. With whom should the Iranians be negotiating if they were of a mind to do so seriously?

MR. CASEY: Well, there's an established process and there's an established requirement in that February 4 Board of Governors resolution, and what it does is it requires Iran to go back to full suspension of all uranium enrichment-related activity, go back to that agreement that they'd made with the EU-3, and then return to negotiations with the EU-3. The Russian proposal has been part of that. If they'd like to pursue that Russian initiative, accept the Russian proposal along the lines acceptable to the international community, that would be fine.

QUESTION: To whom should they be making such indications, if they're of a mind to do so?

MR. CASEY: Well, they certainly have an open and active engagement with the Russians. They've certainly been in consultations with the EU-3. I don't think the Iranians lack for people they can discuss this issue with. I think what they lack is the will to make the decisions necessary to come into requirement with the demands of the international community.

QUESTION: And just a moment ago, you urged us to consult the remarks of Foreign Minister Lavrov. Why did you do that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think because he made very clear today -- the quote that I saw attributed to him was: We're disappointed with the way Iran has been conducting itself in these negotiations. It's absolutely not helping those who want to provide for finding peaceful ways to resolve the whole situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program. We couldn't agree more. That's been the actions that Iran has taken. And again, this is about not words, but actions. Iran knows what it needs to do and it needs to go forward with that if it wishes to actually have a resolution of this situation.

QUESTION: Last question from me on this subject. On the P-5 negotiations, or the P-5 discussions I should say, you said there was a third round, I guess, today that's already taken place. What actually can you tell us -- you get a better readout than we do, presumably -- what's been going on at those discussions? What's been -- any practical outcome of them so far?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, as we've said, this was -- as normally happens with a UN discussion, this was part of our efforts to have a preliminary discussion about how we intend to proceed in the Security Council, certainly about what we would like to see in a presidential statement. And it's basically been a discussion focused on that, on these initial steps that we'll be taking in the Security Council to address Iran's nuclear program.

QUESTION: Is it --

MR. CASEY: Go ahead, Elise.

QUESTION: Sorry. Are there drafts floating around at this point? Has anybody introduced -- have you introduced language that you'd like to see, or right now this is just a theoretical discussion of the ingredients --

MR. CASEY: I think they're discussing elements of it. I'm no aware that a text has been circulated at this point.

QUESTION: Are you planning on proposing something? Is the U.S. going to introduce a resolution?

MR. CASEY: I think, again, what we're looking for up front is a presidential statement. I'm not sure exactly who will table the first draft or who will put the first one on the table.

QUESTION: Is it the U.S. expectation to have a presidential statement this week?

MR. CASEY: It's our expectation that the result of the first Security Council meetings on this will be a presidential statement. I don't know that there's -- since it's not on the Council's calendar at this moment, I can't tell you whether that is going to be next two days, next four days, next six days. So I don't want to pin it down on specific timing.

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