Press Briefing by State Department Spokesperson Sean McCormack on Negotiations with Iran (Excerpts)

February 13, 2006

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. How are you?

QUESTION: Good.

MR. MCCORMACK: Good. All right. I don't have any opening statements, so I'm ready to go right into questions.

QUESTION: This sounds like a rerun, but here we go with Iran again.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.

QUESTION: Now they're not in a mood to talk about the Russian enrichment offer. Also, AP and maybe others too have reports that they have begun some additional enrichment work. Can you deal with either or both of those, please?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can try and deal with both of them. On the second part, Barry, we've seen the news reports about -- that Iran may have begun or restarted enrichment work. What we're going to do is wait to get confirmation from the IAEA that that has, in fact, happened. We don't yet have that confirmation, so I'll -- in terms of a more detailed response, I think we'll have to wait until we have the facts, Barry.

But if true, certainly, it would be another indication that Iran is seeking confrontation, rather than negotiation, with the international community. We would continue to urge them to engage in a serious manner with the international community. But as one of the preconditions for that engagement with the international community in terms of a serious negotiation, the IAEA resolution that was passed that reported Iran to the Security Council said that they had to return to a suspension and moratorium of all their enrichment-related activities.

Unfortunately, they seem to have now, apparently, gone off in the other direction. I can't confirm that for you, but we'll wait to get word from the IAEA on it. In terms of the -- whether they're going to take the Russians up on their offer, we'll wait and see. We've seen from the Iranians that they are not going to meet with the Russians at this point concerning their offer. The Russians have said that offer remains on the table. I think the international community, again, is interested in seeing Iran get back to the negotiating table.

But it has certain commitments that it has to fulfill in order to demonstrate to the world that it is serious about seeking compromise with the international community. The international community has put on the table several offers that would allow Iran to meet its stated desire to have a peaceful nuclear energy program. Well, they haven't taken the international community up on any of those offers to date. So, we'll see what happens with these -- the comments regarding the Russian proposal and if true, their decision to restart enrichment-related activities would seem to be a step in the wrong direction. It would seem to be a step in the direction of further isolating the Iranian people from the rest of the world.

QUESTION: Has there been any high-level U.S. contact with Russia to discuss Iran's reluctance to pursue talks on enrichment?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're in contact with the Russians on a regular basis at the working levels.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: It wasn't -- Secretary Rice hasn't had any conversations in that regard.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Teri.

QUESTION: Does this make you question at all -- and I've asked this before -- waiting a month, waiting until after the next IAEA meeting to push for any more action on Iran? Given that they're announcing themselves what they're doing, why would you have to wait for the IAEA to confirm that on March 6th?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're going to wait until Director General ElBaradei has an opportunity to present his report. We would hope that that report includes everything that has transpired up until that point. We'll see if it does include -- if, in fact, the IAEA confirms that they have restarted their enrichment-related activities. If so, we would expect that that would be reported to the IAEA Board of Governors. I think the Board of Governors would consider that a relevant fact.

We're not reconsidering the deal that we made. We made a deal, an agreement among the P-5 nations that would have the Security Council defer on acting immediately; in this case, until after March 6th, until we've heard from Director General ElBaradei. In exchange for that, there was agreement among the P-5 and that agreement extended beyond the P-5 to many members of the Board of Governors to report Iran to the Security Council for their failure to live up to their obligations. So, we're not rethinking that agreement.

Anything in the front? Anything else on Iran?

. . .

QUESTION: Any readout on today's meeting between -- here at the State Department between the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan?

MR. MCCORMACK: They did have lunch together. It was one on one, before they both went over to the White House for a meeting with the President. They spent a lot of time talking about the Middle East. They talked a lot about the importance -- the important role the Quartet will play in the coming weeks and months. They talked about Haiti. They talked about the importance of all respecting the results of the election process and encouraged all to -- the importance of all maintaining an atmosphere of calm, free from violence.

They talked about Sudan and the way forward. They talked about the work now underway on two fronts: one, to get a UN resolution that would have the effect of re-hatting the current missions in Sudan and also, work on -- by the UN peacekeeping operations on doing an assessment of what might be needed to re-hat that operation, what -- in terms of logistics, in terms of troops on the ground. They talked about Iran and they talked about the importance of the international community coming together to deal with this issue, to deal with the Iranian issue, and that is very -- an issue of serious concern. So, those are sort of the main topics of conversation.

. . .

QUESTION: On Turkey. How would you comment on the -- yesterday's statement by the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who said, "Our borders with Iran, which was drawn in 1639, is older than the U.S. history. So we do not allow any attack on our neighbor Iran via Turkey."

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if I have -- if there's anything in there for me to comment on.

QUESTION: But Mr. McCormack, but your Ambassador, your Ambassador to Ankara Ross Wilson reacted and stated immediately without delay, "The U.S. did not demand any base from Turkey for such an operation against Iran." Do you agree? Otherwise, did you ask help from the Turkish Government, yes or no?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that Ambassador Wilson made a fine comment there and I don't have anything to add to it.

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