AFP: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the international community is "unified in its resolve" to put pressure on Iran over its disputed nuclear program, and will not back down. By Lachlan Carmichael
WASHINGTON (AFP) — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the international community is "unified in its resolve" to put pressure on Iran over its disputed nuclear program, and will not back down.
However, the chief US diplomat stopped short of renewing the US threat of sanctions following a weekend six-power meeting in New York when China, which is reluctant to use such measures, sent a lower-level envoy.
"Let me be clear, we will not be waited out and we will not back down," Clinton told reporters as she stood with European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.
Iran has for three months balked at an offer from the Vienna-based UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ship abroad low-grade nuclear fuel so it can be further enriched and returned to refuel a Tehran medical research reactor.
In Vienna, diplomats said Wednesday the Islamic Republic had effectively rejected the deal because it refused to accept some of the conditions called for by the West and insisted on a simultaneous exchange of fuel.
Western countries have ruled out such an exchange as unacceptable.
But Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted by the Mehr news agency as saying Tehran had not rejected "the principle of the exchange (of nuclear fuel)."
Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast spoke of a "gradual" exchange of fuel.
Clinton said the United States "will continue our close consultations on the next steps" with its partners: the four other UN Security Council permanent members — Russia, China, Britain, and France — plus Germany.
The negotiating group is known as the P5-plus-1.
"We are focused, we are unified in our resolve to work toward pressure on Iran in the face of their continuing rejection of the overtures by the international community," the chief US diplomat said.
"We're going at this in a very concerted and unified manner, because we think it's important to send that message to the Iranian leadership that the world will act, and the world will act together," she added.
Ashton, on her first visit to Washington as the EU foreign policy chief, echoed Clinton's point, speaking about "determined and concerted steps."
But Clinton gave no idea when the P5-plus-1 would next meet after a weekend meeting in New York at the political directors level yielded no apparent results and was attended by a lower-level Chinese official.
Clinton described the meeting an "another productive step along the way toward accomplishing unified international action."
Speaking later with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Clinton said she was aware that China and other countries — an apparent allusion to Russia — had questions about how effective sanctions would be.
"But we are unified in the position that we have to influence the Iranian government's behavior concerning its nuclear program," she said when queried on how unified the world community is given China's apparent reluctance.
Clinton indirectly urged China to consider the global consequences if Iran acquired a nuclear weapon or the capacity to build one.
It "would be so intensely destabilizing, there is not a country in the world that is in the neighborhood, the region, (or) relies on the oil markets, that would not be directly affected," Clinton warned.
The IAEA proposal is designed to buy breathing room as the big powers try to halt Iran's uranium enrichment — which the West fears masks a drive to build a nuclear bomb.
Denying the charge, Iran says it seeks peaceful uses of nuclear energy.