Condoleezza Rice is in Brussels

7th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

She is urging greater international pressure on Iran to halt uranium enrichment

7 December 2007 - Condoleezza Rice began talks with European and Russian officials on Thursday to urge greater international pressure on Iran to halt uranium enrichment and answer questions about its nuclear programs.

Days after a new U.S. intelligence estimate contradicted years of assertions that Iran is secretly pursuing atomic weapons, Rice was stressing with NATO allies and Russia the U.S. case for continued isolation of the Iranian regime. Rice said she would argue during the two days of meetings in Brussels for more pressure.

It is her first face-to-face sessions with world powers now considering new U.N. sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program since the National Intelligence Estimate was released on Monday.

"I don't see that the NIE changes the course that we're on," Rice told reporters aboard her plane as she flew to Belgium for a conference of NATO foreign ministers and talks between the alliance and former Cold War foe Russia, which, along with China, has been particularly resistant to new sanctions.

"In fact, I would think given the assessment that Iran is indeed susceptible to coordinated international pressure that (this) is the right approach," she said, referring to the NIE finding that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 due to intense diplomatic activity.

Rice was to meet separately on Thursday with the Foreign Ministers of Italy, Belgium and Britain as well as European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

Iran will be a major topic in all of those discussions as well as in Rice's Friday talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, perhaps the figure most suspicious of the U.S. policy on Iran, and German Foreign Minister Franck-Walter Steinmaier, whose government appears conflicted on the matter.

Rice will also see Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Friday. Israeli officials say their intelligence forces believe Iran is still working aggressively to build nuclear arms despite the new U.S. conclusion about Iran. The Islamic regime in Tehran is strongly opposed to Israel's existence and frequently boasts of its ability to strike the Jewish state with long-range missiles.

Bush administration officials have conceded that their abrupt abandonment of that point will likely hurt their efforts to impose more sanctions on Iran to increase pressure for it to cease uranium enrichment and reprocessing, which could produce the ingredients for a bomb.

Whatever assessments are made, Rice said she would impress on her counterparts the need for Iran to disclose the nature of its alleged secret nuclear weapons program prior to 2003.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proclaimed that the new assessment is "a declaration of victory for the Iranian nation against the world powers over the nuclear issue."

( 2007)

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