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Rice: Iran ‘playing games’ with nuke deadlines

Iran’s offer to let a watchdog agency inspect the country’s nuclear facilities is a stalling tactic to avoid U.N. penalties that would further isolate Tehran, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Iran’s offer to let a watchdog agency inspect the country’s nuclear facilities is a stalling tactic to avoid U.N. penalties that would further isolate Tehran, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday.

“I think they’re playing games. But obviously, if they’re not playing games, they should come clean. They should stop the enrichment, suspend the enrichment,” Rice told ABC’s “This Week.”

Iran’s deputy oil minister played down the chance of U.N. action, saying punishing Tehran would send oil prices even higher.

Tehran on Saturday offered to allow inspections if the U.N. Security Council would turn the dispute over to its nuclear monitor, the International Atomic Energy Agency. An agency report confirmed Iran had successfully produced enriched uranium and defied the Security Council’s Friday deadline to stop the process.

Iran maintains it will not make nuclear weapons and does not need or want them. But the United States, Britain and France suspect the intent of the uranium enrichment program is to make nuclear warheads.

“The international community is completely of one mind, that no one wants, needs or really can tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran in the midst of the world’s most volatile region. That is the consistent view,” Rice told CNN’s “Late Edition.”

Split on sanctions
While the U.S. and its European allies are pushing for possible penalties, veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China have opposed the idea.

Rice said the U.S. would seek a U.N. resolution requiring that Iran comply with demands it stop enriching uranium. She mentioned a resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can be enforced through penalties or military action.

Iran’s deputy oil minister played down the idea of penalties.

“Any action like that will increase oil prices very high. And I believe that the U.N. or its bodies will not put any sanctions on oil or the oil industry,” M.H. Nejad Hosseinian told reporters in Pakistan.

‘Diplomatic arrows’
Rice, however, declared, “No one is talking about going to oil and gas sanctions.” She cited potential steps such as freezing assets.

“Oh, I absolutely believe that we have a lot of diplomatic arrows in our quiver at the Security Council and also like-minded states that would be able and willing to look at additional measures if the security council does not move quickly enough,” Rice told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

In contrast, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview broadcast Sunday in London that Iran seems to “have pretty much decided they can accept whatever sanctions are coming their way.”

Rice said Iran does not want to risk global isolation.

“But when the Iranians say things like, we don’t care if there are sanctions, then I ask myself, ‘Then why are they working so hard to stay out of the Security Council?”’ she said. “Why are they suddenly saying, ‘Oh, by the way, yes, we will allow snap inspections?’ Why are they suddenly saying, ‘Well, let’s get this back into the IAEA?’ It really doesn’t sound like a regime that is simply unaware of what might happen.”

No direct talks yet
While pledging to let diplomacy run its course, Rice did not need see the need for direct talks now between Washington and Tehran, as favored by the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, GOP Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, and other lawmakers.

“We have channels that we have used. We have people who know our views who talk with the Iranians. I don’t think that the absence of communication is the problem here,” Rice said.

Rice, who has told Congress that Iran is without a doubt “the single biggest threat from a state that we face,” renewed her criticism of the hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has drawn widespread criticism for anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli statements.

“I have never seen the man or talked to him. I just know that nobody speaks in polite company in that way, and that he represents the Iranian regime very badly,” Rice said.