U.S. firm on Iran's nuclear fuel
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that the United States remained committed to resolving the Iran nuclear crisis diplomatically...
Los Angeles Times
SHANNON, Ireland — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that the United States remained committed to resolving the Iran nuclear crisis diplomatically but made clear it would not support any solution that would leave Tehran in control of even small amounts of nuclear fuel.
"We'd be very concerned if Iranians were left with stockpiles of UF6 that then could be used in nuclear weapons," she said on the first leg of a weeklong trip to the Middle East and Asia. UF6 is uranium hexafluoride, a gas that can be used to create weapons-grade material.
Her comments seemed to cast doubt on reports that the administration was working with three European Union countries — Britain, France and Germany — to present Iran a deal that could allow the nation a small, independent nuclear-fuel program of its own.
"There is no EU-U.S. proposal to the Iranians," she said.
However, she indicated the U.S. would likely back an agreement in which Iran were permitted to operate a civilian nuclear-power program using fuel supplied, controlled and, once used, eventually returned to an outside supplier. Russia has agreed to provide Iran's reactor at Bushehr with fuel under such conditions.
"It's a very good way for countries to fulfill their needs for fuel for a civilian reactor without the proliferation risk that's inherent in enrichment and reprocessing," she said.
Iranian officials have rejected the proposal, saying it would leave their nation dependent on outside sources for nuclear fuel.
Diplomats close to currently stalled negotiations between Iran and the three European nations said recently that they were pessimistic about any short-term progress because of the current political climate in Iran, where newly elected conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has taken a hard line on the issue.
These officials indicated that they would try in the short term to keep the talks going in order to prevent a resumption of work at its enrichment facility.
Iran agreed to suspend all nuclear fuel development activities while it negotiated with the European countries, but restarted a uranium conversation plant at Esfahan during the summer when the Iranians declared a suspension of negotiations.
Rice made her comments Thursday as she headed for her first trip to the Middle East in five months. The trip is intended to push the Bush administration's initiative to spread democracy in the region and coax Israel and the Palestinians to consolidate last summer's withdrawal of Israeli settlers and forces from the Gaza Strip.
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