Press Briefing by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Iran and the NPT (Excerpts)

February 24, 2006

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

. . .

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, before your departure, you wanted Arabs to speak out against Iran, but we didn't hear a lot of statements very aggressive against Iran during this trip, yes, against Iran. Do you want -- you wanted -- yes, you wanted them to be more vocal against Iran.

SECRETARY RICE: I think what I said was that I wanted people to support the international consensus that Iran has to live up to its international obligations, be in compliance with the NPT and find a negotiated solution, returning to the negotiations that Iran walked out on. That international consensus is pretty clear.

One of the countries, for instance, that had a chance to speak in that regard, was Egypt. Egypt spoke volumes by voting in the IAEA to refer the Iranian case to the Security Council. So I don't think anybody has been lacking in telling the Iranians that they have only one course, and that is to agree to a civil nuclear program that would allow Iran to have civil nuclear power, but would mitigate the proliferation risks that people are concerned about.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, but even there is a GCC statement -- the common GCC statement with you. It doesn't mention Iran.

SECRETARY RICE: We have an international consensus on Iran. That consensus is that the Iranians have got to get back into negotiations. There is a report before the Security Council on Iran. It's very clear where the international consensus is. The discussions that we had about Iran were for everyone to use whatever leverage they have, political, diplomatic contacts that they have with the Iranians to convince the Iranians to do precisely this. For instance, the Foreign Minister of Oman had just been in Iran. And he reported that he said to the Iranians, you know, you need to find a way to get back to the international consensus on this. So I found the support of the international consensus on Iran thorough and complete and very strong.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, can I follow-up on that? During the -- before you started out on your trip on the plane and while -- you said you wanted to get states to further Iran's isolation, unless they do the things that you said that they should do -- negotiations and things like that. So do you sense a willingness on the part of Arab states to use those levers, isolate Iran, if they don't do that, because when we saw the GCC it seemed as if they didn't want to come out very strongly against Iran, which indicates they may not want to use that pressure?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let's see what happens in the Security Council. This is one step at a time. The international consensus has put the Iranian case into the Security Council. The Iranians now have an opportunity to react to that in a positive way. I think people are going to wait and see whether Iran reacts in a positive way. If Iran does not react in a positive way, then it will be in the Security Council and there will obviously have to be some action by the Security Council to try and again convince Iran that it has to respond.

So, I think every -- it's very clear where the entire international community stands on the Iranian case. When I said that I wanted them to -- people to be prepared to increase Iran's isolation, that is if Iran does not respond. And if you remember in London, we gave the -- by delaying until March 6th any Security Council action, we've given the Iranians an opportunity to respond. And I wouldn't expect any further statement or "pressure" until we know what Iran has done.

But I do know that lots of states are visiting Iran, talking to the Iranians. I believe Russians and Chinese have recently been in Iran, may even still be there, I think. There are a number of countries that are pressing the case with Iran that it Iran that needs to respond, not the international community.

QUESTION: Did you sense the same concern that you've been sharing about Iran becoming a destabilizing force in the region when you take their nuclear ambitions into account along with the support for terrorist groups, things like that?

SECRETARY RICE: There is broad concern about Iran and Iranian activities and these are countries that have relations with Iran and I believe are trying to get the Iranians to take a more constructive course.

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