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Iran proposal a way out of diplomatic impasse

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, interviewed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Vienna early Friday morning regarding the results of the diplomatic talks between six world powers on Iran’s nuclear program.
/ Source: NBC News

VIENNA, Austria — Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, interviewed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Vienna early Friday morning regarding the results of the diplomatic talks between the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China on Iran’s nuclear program. Following is a transcript of her interview.

Andrea Mitchell: Is this the final word from Iran?
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
We certainly hope that Iran will take a few days to think over a very serious proposal, and it is a proposal that is not just an American proposal, but a proposal that the international community is offering Iran as a way out of this impasse.

And in fact, the condition that Iran suspend its re-enrichment and re-processing activities is not an American condition, it is a condition of the IAEA board of governors, it is a condition of a presidential statement of the security council, and indeed it is a condition that goes all the way back to the European negotiations when they broke down. So, I would hope that Iran would take the opportunity to think about it.

How long will you give Iran?
We do need to have an answer, it can’t be months, it needs to be within weeks. But I hope the Iranians will take the time, I understand that the United States has made a proposal that follows on our support for these negotiations, but it would be the first time in a very, very long time that American and Iranian representatives would sit down on something of this substance in a multilateral framework with others so perhaps it takes a little time to digest it.

Some critics are saying, why should you trust Iran? Can’t Iran say, we're giving up our nuclear research, we're letting in the inspectors and cheat? Isn’t that what you all have been saying all along has been going on?
This isn’t a matter of trust. Didn’t someone once say trust, but verify? Verification is absolutely critical.

Is it possible to verify?
The IAEA is on the ground.

And the U.N. inspectors?
Yes, the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

But it's also a part of this proposal that Iran should allow additional access to the IAEA. And we believe if Iran is prepared to give that kind of access to the IAEA, given what the IAEA is capable of doing, then this can be verified, but verification is very, very important.

There have been suggestions that Russia may even agree to sit down and be part of these talks. What about China? Do you think China might eventually come along or are they resisting?
These countries have to speak for themselves. They certainly have expressed an interest in considering it, and I would hope that they would consider it favorably, but these are choices China and Russia have to make.

Couldn’t the U.S. have had this deal a couple of years ago? Before the president chose to call Iran a member of the axis of evil, before all relations were cut off, even back channel conversations? Couldn’t you have had this deal with a moderate Iranian government, if you can call one moderate, before this radical new president?
Well we had to take the time to build an international climate of opinion that Iran had certain steps it had to take. More than a year ago the Iranians were claiming it was Iran against the United States. Now it is clear that the international community is saying to Iran, give up this program, suspend this program and come back to talks on a civil nuclear program that can be acceptable to the international community. This had to be built as a consensus of the international community.

This is the time now, now that these negotiations have been set up in this way, for the U.S. to lend its leadership and its weight to these negotiations.

Why permit Iran to have nuclear power plants? Didn’t we always say we wouldn’t do that?
We fundamentally don’t understand why Iran has to have nuclear power. Its a major oil producer, but nuclear power is a part of an energy strategy that keeps one from being so dependent on hydro carbons, we ourselves have said that. The important thing though, is that it has to be a civil nuclear program that is acceptable, and that means a civil nuclear program that does not have the proliferation risks of the full fuel cycle on Iranian territory.

What Iran must not do is use a civil nuclear program to hide a nuclear weapons program.