Rice in Berlin To Discuss Iran with U.N. Security Council Members, Secretary of State seeking long-term international strategy for dealing with Iran ,By Vince Crawley, Washington File Staff Writer
Rice, speaking to reporters en route to Berlin overnight March 29-30, also discussed U.S. plans to help the Palestinian people directly instead of supporting the newly elected Hamas government. In addition, the secretary of state briefly discussed Afghanistan’s recent release of a man who had been convicted to converting to Christianity.
A presidential statement issued March 29 by the U.N. Security Council “is an international voice to the Iranians that they need to suspend their activities, return to negotiations and that they continue to be isolated,” Rice told reporters.
The Security Council’s presidential statement demands that Iran suspend uranium enrichment and asks that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran’s compliance in 30 days. (See related article.)
Rice is meeting in Berlin as part of so-called “P-5 plus 1” talks -- the five members of the Security Council: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States; plus Germany, which has played an important role in negotiating with Iran’s government. The March 29 presidential statement restates a recent resolution of the IAEA Board of Governors “to put the weight of the Security Council behind that resolution, and to give the IAEA the weight of the Security Council,” Rice said. (See related article.)
AN OPPORTUNITY TO DISCUSS “NEXT STEPS” IN DEALING WITH IRAN
Now that the members of the Security Council have agreed on the wording of the statement on Iran, “we don’t now have to negotiate text,” Rice said. Instead, she told reporters, “[W]e will really have an opportunity to sit and look ahead to what next steps we might wish to take” in dealing with Iran. (See related article.)
“We also have a chance to look ahead and talk not just about the nuclear program but about the broader concerns about Iran on terrorism,” Rice said. “We can talk about the situation with Iran in the Palestinian Territories, and of course we can talk about the nature of the Iranian regime and the kinds of comments that are coming out of Iran that show that this regime is really -- is a troublesome regime for peace and stability in the Middle East.”
Rice said that Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has not yet had a chance to meet with Iranian officials because his time is consumed by helping Iraqis form a government. Iran is a neighbor of Iraq, and prominent Iraqis have said they would like Khalilzad to meet with his Iranian counterparts to discuss regional issues. Rice cautioned that “people should not put so much weight on” any such meeting. “At an appropriate time, he’ll meet with them,” Rice said.
The United States also is nearly finished with a review of Palestinian assistance programs following the recent election victory of Hamas.
“We’re not going to fund a Hamas-led government,” Rice said.
“FAVORABLE” OUTCOME IN CASE OF AFGHAN CHRISTIAN
“But we are going to see what we can do to increase humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people,” Rice said. “We’re trying to be as generous as possible to the Palestinian people, because we know they have severe humanitarian needs.”
Rice also responded to a question about the case of an Afghan citizen who was tried under Afghan law for converting to Christianity. Following an international outcry, Afghanistan recently allowed him to seek asylum in Italy.
The outcome was “favorable in the sense that this man's life has been spared and that the Afghans were able to create conditions in which he was able to leave the country,” Rice said. “This is a young democracy and I suspect that we're going to have to work through the evolution of a lot of these issues with the Afghans.” She noted that the case was “a far cry from the Taliban.”
A transcript of Rice’s remarks en route to Berlin is available on the State Department Web site.
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