Rice on her way to Europe for talks on Iran

28th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2006 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Europe this week to consult with key allies plus Russia and China on the UN stalemate over Iran's nuclear program, officials said Monday.

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2006 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Europe this week to consult with key allies plus Russia and China on the UN stalemate over Iran's nuclear program, officials said Monday.

They said Rice would leave Wednesday for Berlin and a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany the next day. She will then head on to France and Britain.

The trip comes at a time when talks have bogged down within the Security Council on a presidential statement seeking to call Iran to account for its suspected efforts to develop a nuclear bomb.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Security Council permanent members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — and Germany would try to take a longer view in Berlin.

"I think the focus will be on the medium to long-term issues about how to get Iran ... back into the mainstream of the non-proliferation framework and how to get it to roll back its program," McCormack said.

Rice's trip comes among signs of growing impatience in Washington with the lack of a firm response by the international community to Iran, which insists its nuclear program is for strictly peaceful purposes.

Negotiations within the Security Council have been snagged by the opposition of Russia and China to even a hint of punitive measures against Iran, their ally and major trading partners.

After a phone conversation between Rice and her Moscow counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Friday, US and Russian negotiators worked through the weekend in an attempt to hammer out compromise language but reported no progress.

"We're continuing to work the language. We obviously haven't come to a consensus on language yet," McCormack said, suggesting the Berlin meeting could give a boost to the negotiating efforts if needed.

Rice will hold bilateral talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Jacques Chirac of France and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain — the EU-3 that had sought to negotiate an end to the row with Iran.

Other issues will also likely figure on Rice's trip, officials said.

In Berlin she could raise with Lavrov a Pentagon report alleging Russian spying for Saddam Hussein during the Iraq war. Rice was expected to discuss Syrian influence in Lebanon and Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts with Chirac.

The secretary will be travelling to Britain to visit the home constituency of Straw and repay a visit he made to her home state of Alabama in October.

But Iran shaped up as the dominant topic with diplomacy at a critical point after Tehran announced in January it was resuming sensitive research on uranium enrichment that it had suspended for two years.

The United States succeeded last month in persuading the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer the matter to the Security Council, which has the authority to impose eventual sanctions.

After weeks of expressing confidence that the council would eventually surmount Russian and Chinese objections and agree on a text, Rice started last week to vent at the slow pace of negotiations.

"There is no time for delay in taking on this issue," she told a news conference on Thursday. "There can't be any stalling. The international community has got to act."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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