AP: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned on Wednesday that the world has lost patience for Iranian foot-dragging regarding a possible return to bargaining over its nuclear program.
The Associated Press
By ANNE GEARAN
PARIS (AP) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned on Wednesday that the world has lost patience for Iranian foot-dragging regarding a possible return to bargaining over its nuclear program.
Rice said nations with an offer on the table won't let Iran use a fresh diplomatic overture as an excuse for further delay.
Traveling to Europe, where Iran is a central topic for President Bush's final trip there as president, Rice welcomed Europe's new willingness to consider additional coercive sanctions against Iran. She suggested European nations expect a quick answer from Iran once it receives a repackaged opening offer.
A European envoy was to deliver the offer — essentially a retooling of a two-year-old package of incentives for Iran to roll back its nuclear program — as soon as this weekend.
"I'm going to be attentive to it, and I think others will be attentive to any sense that Iran is trying to use this opportunity for them to stall, because I think that no one is of a mind to allow them to stall very much longer," Rice said.
The United States agreed last month to give Iran another chance to resume arms control talks by making small changes to the existing offer, but Iran has already rejected a demand that it shelve uranium enrichment before talks could begin.
Any new European sanctions would probably wait until nations have an answer, Rice suggested.
"People are looking to see whether the Iranians have a reasonable response, a forthcoming response," she said. "It's not as if proposals haven't been put forward to them before."
Rice welcomed support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others for possible additional sanctions on the oil-producing giant if it continues a drive for nuclear technology that the West fears could produce a bomb. New sanctions could target Iran's banking sector, where individual sanctions applied by the United States have apparently pinched Iran.
The United Nations Security Council has passed three rounds of weak sanctions against Iran that have the chief value of making uranium enrichment the international red line. Europe, with economic and diplomatic ties to Iran, has been slower than the United States to embrace separate financial punishments.