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US seeks allies against Iran's nuke programme

Condoleezza Rice is asking Russia, China and India to back UN action against Iran's N-programme.

india Updated: Sep 14, 2005 14:05 IST
Barry Schweid (AP)
Barry Schweid (AP)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is asking Russia, China and India to support the United States in threatening Iran with sanctions for refusing to halt its nuclear programme.

"Iran needs to get a message from the international community that is a unified message," Rice said at a news conference Friday. The message, she said, is that it is not acceptable for Iran to enter into negotiations with the Europeans on living up to its international obligations, and then to back out.

Iran refused to accept a US-backed European Union offer of economic concessions to halt suspicious nuclear activities, and Rice said a drive to round up support for UN Security Council consideration of Iran's behaviour was under way.

"We will be working with our colleagues on this," she said. Approval is not assured in the Security Council even though French President Jacques Chirac has grown impatient with Iran. For one thing, China historically has opposed sanctions, Russia's stance is uncertain, and either one can kill a resolution with a veto. As she discussed her meetings coming up next week in New York during a session of the UN General Assembly, Rice said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was granted a visa to attend even though he was ineligible because of terrorist ties. "I don't know if I will have a chance to bump into him," Rice said with a smile. "But you know, I am a pleasant person. I suppose I would say, 'Hello'."

Referring to continuing US suspicions that Ahmadinejad played a role in Iranian radicals' takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979, Rice gave no indication she was willing to have serious talks with the Iranian leader.

On another subject, Rice called for sweeping changes at the United Nations, including its management, although she said she expected to continue to work with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "The United States is the largest single donor to the United Nations, and we owe the American taxpayers an accounting for the fact their tax dollars are being used well," she said. "The United Nations must be fully accountable, transparent and efficient, with a work force based on high standards of integrity and accountability," she said.

While in New York, Rice plans to meet with European, Russian and UN partners who helped produce a blueprint, or road map, designed to promote negotiations on an overall accord between Israel and the Palestinians.

She said they would try to use the success of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza as momentum for more action by the two sides on the road map, which she called a reliable guide to setting up a Palestinian state.

In the Middle East, the Bush administration is trying to counter anti-US views.

Karen Hughes, longtime adviser to President George W Bush, was sworn in Friday as the State Department's new head of public diplomacy. She will concentrate on improving the United States' image in the Middle East and countering what Bush called terrorists' lies about America.

"I've asked the State Department to improve our government's capabilities to confront terrorist propaganda quickly before myths have time to take root in the hearts and minds of people across the world," Bush said at the State Department.

"Karen and her team have a vital task," Bush said. "They must ensure that the terrorists' lies are challenged aggressively and that our government is prepared to respond to false accusations and propaganda immediately."

Hughes will make her first trip to the Middle East in her new job at the end of September.

First Published: Sep 14, 2005 11:50 IST