Rice: Iran Can't Have Nuclear Weapons Capability
WASHINGTON – Momentum is building to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions. Britain, France and Germany, the three countries that make up the European Union-3 that has been negotiating with Iran, have drafted a resolution that seeks a Security Council referral.
Key excerpts of the draft resolution being circulated by the EU-3 and obtained by FOX News state that Iran is being referred to the U.N. General Assembly Security Council under Article XII.C of the International Atomic Energy Agency's governing statutes. It states the referral has been made because of "Iran's many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT safeguards agreement."
The draft "calls on Iran to understand that the [IAEA] Board [of Governors] lacks confidence in its intentions in seeking to develop a fissile material production capability against a background of safeguards non-compliance and unresolved questions; [and] to recognize that the confidence-building measures that it has implemented since September 2003 have fallen short."
Near the end of the document, the draft calls once again on Iran "to extend full and prompt cooperation to the [IAEA], which the director-general deems indispensable."
This portion serves not only to issue another call on Iran to cooperate, but as a reminder that even if the U.N. Security Council becomes "seized of the matter" — diplomatic speak meaning the Security Council takes up Iran's case — the IAEA would not be wholly removed from the coordination, but would through its technical competence remain as the official agency in charge of monitoring Iranian compliance and non-compliance with international nuclear agreements.
A senior Bush administration official said of the draft: "We're pretty happy with it."
On Wednesday, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana confirmed that the EU had received a letter from Iran suggesting they plan another round of negotiations as was envisioned before Tehran broke weapons inspectors' seals on uranium-enrichment equipment at Natanz last week.
But Solana said the Europeans have had enough.
"There's not much sense in having another meeting if there's nothing new" in Iran's stance, Solana said, emphasizing that efforts now are focused on the upcoming meeting of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency.
"I think the EU has already — France has already responded concerning whether or not they think it would make any sense to have discussions with the Iranians at this point. And my understanding is they believe it would not," added Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who met with Solana in Washington. "It's the Iranians who walked away and I'm sensing from the Europeans that there's not much to talk about."
Rice said it's up to the Iranians to demonstrate that they're not just talking, but are serious about dismantling their nuclear program, which Tehran claims is for peaceful civilian use. International observers say they believe Iran's activities are aimed at developing a nuclear weapon in defiance of international agreements.
"The EU has made quite clear that the Iranians have crossed an important threshold, that it is now important for the IAEA Board of Governors to act so that Iran knows that the international community will not tolerate its continued acting with impunity against the interest of the international community," Rice said. "Iran must not be allowed to get a nuclear weapon, it must not be allowed to pursue activities that might lead to a nuclear weapon. And on that, we are fully united."
As efforts have moved toward getting the Security Council to act, Iran has offered to resume talks. Those offers have been dismissed as an effort to buy time. White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday the time for talk has passed.
"We expect action from the regime in Iran. And the only action they have shown has run contrary to the demands of the international community. They have continued to pursue uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities. They have failed to comply with their international obligations, and the international community is fed up with it," McClellan said.
If adopted at the upcoming IAEA board meeting on Feb. 2, the draft resolution will officially report Iran to the Security Council. The Security Council seems to be in agreement that Tehran must stop its nuclear pursuits, though is not in accord over what measures to take to stop production.
Russia and China are increasing in their own way pressure on Iran but they have also expressed some skepticism and reluctance about pushing this matter to the Security Council, on which they serve with the United States, United Kingdom and France as permanent members with veto power.
The United States is clearly welcoming the greater urgency that the European community seems to be assigning the Iranian situation. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said the United States has been trying to refer the matter for four years to the Security Council. He said if the Security Council can't deal with something like the Iranian nuclear weapons program, then it's hard to imagine for what purpose the U.N. charter contemplated the Council would act.
Traveling in the Middle East, Vice President Dick Cheney has been checking the pulse of regional leaders on the Iran issue. He met Tuesday with the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah urged the United States to take its time, not to rush the issue to the Security Council.
But Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, a FOX News contributor, said a nuclear-equipped Iran would be terrible for the Middle East.
"Iran is a terror sponsoring state, you don't want terror to be possible under the threat of a nuclear umbrella," he said. That "would be terrible in terms of its implication for progress in the Middle East."
In an exclusive interview with FOX News, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the threat from Iran cannot be taken lightly, especially since Iran has extensive ties to terrorist organizations. Rumsfeld, however, would not detail specifics about the U.S. military's role if diplomacy fails.
"As is the responsibility of this department, we engage in the kinds of contingency planning that's appropriate for the department but that's a matter that's on the diplomatic path which it should be, and the president's working it hard," Rumsfeld said, adding that the U.S. military is ready for anything.
"We have a force sizing construct that we feel good about. We have a a military strategy that we feel good about. We have clearly the most capable military on the face of the Earth — the best trained, the best led, it's battle hardened, it's been in two wars in the last five years," he said.
Kristol said it's important to note that the Europeans have finally come to terms with the fact that the "soft negotiation strategy doesn't work." He added that tough diplomacy will only be successful if "it's backed by the threat of force."
Besides diplomacy and threats, the United States should be helping the opposition in Iran rise up against the regime, Kristol said.
"Time is of the essence," he said, adding that thankfully President Bush "does seem to be possessed with a sense of urgency on Iran. He doesn't want to leave office in 2008 with a nuclear Iran ... which would so undercut his efforts" to stop terror throughout his terms in office.
FOX News' Kelly Wright, Greg Kelly, James Rosen, and Teri Schultz contributed to this report.