Iran Nuclear NewsRice says Iran is vulnerable on nuclear ambitions

Rice says Iran is vulnerable on nuclear ambitions

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ImageBloomberg: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on "partners in Europe and beyond" today to help exploit what she described as Iran's weaknesses to boost pressure on the regime to curtail its nuclear ambitions.

By Viola Gienger

ImageJune 3 (Bloomberg) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on "partners in Europe and beyond" today to help exploit what she described as Iran's weaknesses to boost pressure on the regime to curtail its nuclear ambitions.

"The Iranian government is dangerous," Rice told an audience of more than 6,500 pro-Israel activists meeting in Washington. "Yet Iran has vulnerabilities," including economic troubles and a "discredited ideology," she added.

Rice reiterated the Bush administration's demand for more pressure on Iran at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy conference a day after the likely Republican nominee for president, Senator John McCain, spoke to the group and proposed a worldwide campaign to isolate Iran. McCain said the effort should include divesting in companies that do business with the country.

Iran continues "to inch closer to a nuclear weapon under the cover of talk," Rice told the meeting, drawing a standing ovation.

"The world needs to rise to this challenge," Rice said. She asked other governments to "impose greater costs on the regime."

Iran's government has rebuffed United Nations Security Council demands to suspend the enrichment effort, which produces an isotope of uranium used in nuclear power generation and in making weapons.

Weapons for Israel

The possibility that Iran is trying to make a nuclear bomb has raised concerns in Israel because of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's public threats against Israel's right to exist. Such declarations were among the driving forces for a 10- year $30 billion U.S. arms package arranged for Israel, Rice said. Conference participants will lobby Congress this week to approve the first year's $2.55 billion.

Ahmadinejad said today at a United Nations conference in Rome that the Jewish state is "doomed to go."

Iran denies it is pursuing a nuclear-weapons program and says its goal is atomic power to meet energy needs. The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna recently reported that Iranian officials still haven't explained documents that show the country has worked on explosives and a missile-warhead design.

Imposing Costs

Rice again rejected arguments by critics such as Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama that the U.S. is missing an opportunity by refusing to engage in talks with Iran unless its leaders first agree to give up uranium enrichment. That position is among the costs imposed to persuade Iran, she said.

"Diplomacy is not a synonym for talking," Rice said. "The real question is not, 'Why won't the Bush administration talk to Iran.' The real question is, 'Why won't Tehran talk to us?"'

Rice raised the question of negotiations with opponents again in references to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which wrested control last year of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority government of President Mahmoud Abbas.

"The problem is not failure to communicate with Hamas," she said, alluding to disputes over former President Jimmy Carter's visit to the Middle East in April when he met with leaders of Hamas. The U.S. and European Union consider the group a terrorist organization.

"The only responsible policy is to work with decent Palestinians who want and should be able to end the occupation that began in 1967, but also to isolate Hamas until it chooses to behave like a peaceful political party, not a terrorist group," Rice said.

'Hard Decisions'

She appealed to the audience, many of whom will participate in a 5,000-strong lobbying drive on Capitol Hill this week, to support the "hard decisions" Israeli leaders will have to make to accomplish a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Abbas, who is conducting negotiations brokered by the U.S. with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, also will need the support of Israelis in the process, Rice said. Olmert addresses the conference during a gala dinner late today.

"They need to know that, in this, their fight is our fight," Rice said. "A responsible Palestinian state, just like a responsible Iraqi state or Lebanese state, could anchor our common values in the region, therefore blunting the advance of our enemies."

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