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US to promote democracy in Iran: Rice

The US administration, describing Iran as a "strategic challenge," signalled on Wednesday a major ramp-up of efforts to promote democracy in the Islamic Republic while seeking to rein in its nuclear programme.

india Updated: Feb 16, 2006 00:29 IST

The US administration, describing Iran as a "strategic challenge," signalled on Wednesday a major ramp-up of efforts to promote democracy in the Islamic Republic while seeking to rein in its nuclear programme.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the administration would ask Congress for another $75 million to fund around-the-clock radio and television broadcasting into Iran and other activities to boost reform efforts.

Rice also told a Senate panel she would have talks in the Gulf next week, with Iran a major topic. She did not name the countries but a State Department official later said she would visit key US allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Accusing Iran of "political subversion," terrorism and support for Islamic radicals, Rice said: "The Iranian regime is a strategic challenge to the United States, to the world, and a destabilising influence in the Middle East."

"The United States will actively confront the aggressive policies of the Iranian regime," she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"At the same time, we will work to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy in their country."

Rice and other US officials made it clear the push was part of an overall campaign to increase pressure on Iran, as the showdown over its suspected bid to build a nuclear bomb headed to the UN Security Council.

"The international community is going to have act and act decisively if Iran is to know that there is a consequence for their open defiance of the international community, so we are working on precisely that," she said.

First Published: Feb 16, 2006 00:19 IST