Iran ‘playing games’: Rice

Iran has said it’s to allow UN inspections of its nuclear facilities, but there’s a big if. A senior figure in Iran’s nuclear energy agency, Muhammed Saedi, said UN inspections would be allowed if the threat of sanctions were dropped and uranium enrichment could continue.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed the offers saying “I think they’re playing games,” she told ABC America.

“Obviously if they’re not, they should come clean, stop the enrichment, suspend the enrichment and answer the list of demands in the IAEA board of governors resolution and statement of the Security Council,” the chief US diplomat said. “Then they can get back to negotiations.”

Ms Rice said the United States would pursue its drive for a Security Council resolution against Iran under chapter seven of the UN charter, which would clear the way for possible sanctions or even military force.

The developments came two days after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declared Iran in defiance of a UN order to halt uranium enrichment that could be used for a nuclear bomb.

“The international community’s credibility is at stake here and we have a choice too,” she said. “We can either mean what we say when we say that Iran must comply or we can continue to allow Iran to defy.”

Tehran insists it is only developing a peaceful nuclear energy program, but Washington believes Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.

A senior Iranian official on Sunday dismissed the building international pressure against Tehran over the matter.

“We will not accept any forced resolution,” top national security official Ali Larijani told students at Tehran’s Sharif University, the most prestigious scientific faculty in the Islamic republic.

Drawing loud applause, he asserted the country’s bid to master sensitive nuclear technology, for peaceful purposes and not weapons, was “a strategic objective.”

Russia and China unmoved

Russia and China, which both wield a veto on the 15-member Security Council, have opposed punitive measures against Iran for the program.

Ms Rice reported no progress in bringing Moscow and Beijing on board to the US stance, saying only that “we’ll take this one step at a time” and that an intensive round of diplomacy lay ahead.

Political directors of the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany will meet in Paris on Tuesday to thrash out a position on Iran and foreign ministers were scheduled to confer May 9 in New York.

Iran has stood firm in its insistence on pursuing and even accelerating work on uranium enrichment, but Ms Rice maintained that the Islamic republic was not insensitive to western opposition.

“The Iranians are doing everything that they can to get this out of the Security Council which suggests to me that they are indeed somewhat concerned that the Security Council might move to the kinds of measures that could further isolate Iran,” Ms Rice said.

The United States has been pushing the United Nations to impose at least an assets freeze and travel restrictions on Iranian leaders to try to force them back into talks on their nuclear ambitions.

But Washington has acknowledged the possibility of a stalemate within the world body and lobbied its allies in Europe, the Gulf and elsewhere to consider their own trade and other sanctions outside the UN framework.

“Everyone agrees that Iran can’t have nuclear weapons, and of course their president makes it ever more evident that they can’t have nuclear weapons, with the things that he says and the things that he does,” Ms Rice told CNN television in a separate interview.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and stressed that Iran will “never” renounce its disputed nuclear program.

“The international community is completely of one mind, that no one wants, needs or really can tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran in the midst of the world’s most volatile region,” Ms Rice told CNN.

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