Rice Concerned Over Iran's Sharing of Nuclear Technology

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday the United States is concerned over Iranian threats to share the nuclear technology it is developing with other countries.

Appearing at a news conference here, Rice said Bush administration officials "have to be concerned when there are statements from Iran that Iran would not only like to have this technology but would share it, share technology and expertise."

She was reacting to a statement from Iran's supreme leader that Tehran was prepared to transfer its nuclear technology to other countries.

"That's one of the fears, that there would be that kind of escape, if you will, of technology and expertise," Rice said.

Earlier Tuesday, Iranian's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said as he met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir that "Iran's nuclear capability is one example of various scientific capabilities in the country. ... The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to transfer the experience, knowledge and technology of its scientists."

Earlier, Rice dismissed new threats from Iran over the future of its disputed nuclear program, but won no public pledge of support from ally Greece for punitive sanctions.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said Tuesday that Iran will withdraw its cooperation from the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency if faced with U.N. sanctions and will be forced to hide its nuclear program if the West takes "harsh measures" against it.

The statements were Iran's strongest statement of defiance yet before a Friday deadline the Security Council has given the country to stop all uranium enrichment.

"What Iran's statements do is further Iran's isolation from the international community," Rice said, adding that the Iranian people "deserve better then they are currently seeing from their government."

Rice, who spoke in Athens before traveling to Turkey, said the next step in the international effort to counter Iranian nuclear ambitions is not certain.

The United States and European allies are expected to press for binding measures when the U.N. Security Council begins the next round of its review of the Iranian case as soon as next week.

Although Rice has recently raised the likelihood of pressing for sanctions, she did not go that far Tuesday when taking questions following a meeting with her Greek counterpart.

Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said Greece opposes any nuclear weapons development by Iran, but she was guarded when she was asked whether Greece would support sanctions. Greece is a temporary member of the Security Council but cannot cast a veto.

"The position of Greece is that the international community should achieve a peaceful settlement of this matter," Bakoyannis said. She said "there must be coordination within the European Union, and decisions will be taken within the framework of the Security Council. We are in the middle of a diplomatic effort, which still has tools at its disposal that allow it to be effective."

As anti-American riots raged near her ministry, Bakoyannis said Iran had to provide "sufficient assurances" that it would not pursue a military nuclear program.

Asked about any possibility of U.S. military action to deter Iran, Rice repeated the standard White House reply. "The United States president doesn't take any options off the table, but we are on a diplomatic agenda here," she said.

Bakoyannis and Rice also denied they had discussed the possible use by the United States of a large military base on the Greek island of Crete. "The agenda is to reinforce our diplomatic efforts," Rice said. "I most certainly did not raise facilities for anything, because that is not on the agenda."

Rice also met briefly with Greek Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis.

Riot squads fired tear gas Tuesday at masked youths hurling gasoline bombs and rocks after they tried to break through a police cordon to reach the building where Rice was meeting with Bakoyannis.

The youths set fire to at least one delivery van and smashed many store fronts in one of Athens' premier shopping areas as they were chased by police away from central Syntagma Square.

It was the first official trip by a U.S. secretary of state to Greece in 20 years. In March 1986, Secretary of State George Schultz's visit coincided with a terrorist bombing.

Greece is considered a hotbed of anti-Americanism in Europe and protests caused former Secretary of State Colin Powell to cancel two planned visits — one in late 2003 and another during the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Threatened protests also forced former President Clinton to shorten a 1999 visit, which was marred by clashes between police and anti-globalization activists.