June 5th, 2006 05:41 EST
Detailed Proposal on Nuclear Talks in Days, Rice Says By Ralph Dannheisser
Washington -- A European envoy will present Iran "in the next few days" with details of the new international proposal aimed at halting development of a military nuclear program by that nation, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said June 4.
In a round of Sunday morning television interviews, Rice said the proposal lays out two paths, one projecting negotiations once Iran agrees to suspend its uranium enrichment efforts, and the other providing for further steps by the U.N. Security Council if it fails to do so.
But Rice declined to discuss specifics of either approach until the package of potential incentives and penalties is formally presented to Iranian officials.
"It's important for Iran to receive the proposal, to receive it without having to read it in the newspaper," the secretary said on CNN's Late Edition. "The parties agreed that we weren't going to talk about what's on either path," she added.
While not setting a deadline for an Iranian response once the specifics are presented, Rice stressed that "this can't be endless."
"The Iranian [nuclear] program is progressing, and the international community needs to know if there is a negotiating option that really has life in it," she declared.
Tensions with the international community have grown steadily since January, when Iran ended a 14-month moratorium on its uranium enrichment activities and abandoned talks with a group of three European nations -- the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
A key departure in the new proposal, adopted in Vienna June 1 by the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, is that U.S. diplomats would take part in direct talks with Iran. The United States has refused to hold such direct talks for the past 27 years.
Rice described the offer to join the talks should Iran suspend its enrichment programs as "a logical step in a policy that's really been set for more than a year."
Asked on CBS's Face the Nation about some negative initial comments by Iranian leaders -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for example, repeated June 3 that Iran would refuse to cease enriching uranium as a condition for negotiations -- Rice said "we're going to give the diplomacy a little time here and we're not going to react to everything the Iranian leadership [said] over the last couple of days."
Rice said provisions of the proposal would clearly give Iran "an opportunity to resolve this impasse favorably with a civil nuclear program that would be acceptable to the international community."
She stressed that "no one is questioning that it [Iran] has a right to civil nuclear power." But, she added, "Many countries have the right to that that don't enrich and reprocess on their territory, and given Iran's history it must not have the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon."
Rice also minimized the importance of a warning issued earlier in the day by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian spiritual leader, that if the United States made "a wrong move" regarding Iran, "definitely the energy flow in this region will be seriously endangered."
"I think that we shouldn't place too much emphasis on a threat of this kind," Rice said on Fox News Sunday, noting that Iran is itself highly dependent on its oil sales. "I think something like 80 percent of Iran's budget comes from oil revenue. And so obviously it would be a very serious problem for Iran if oil were disrupted on the market," she said.
Again, she declared that what should be emphasized is Iran's opportunity under the new international proposal "to find a way out of this impasse."
For more information on U.S. policies, see Middle East and North Africa and Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
Rice was asked in all three talk show appearances about allegations of atrocities committed in Iraq by U.S. Marines, with one report alleging the killing of 24 unarmed civilians in Hadithah.
The secretary said she echoed the views of President Bush in calling the reports "deeply troubling," and promised a thorough investigation.
"When there have been any suggestions of misconduct, those suggestions are thoroughly investigated with due rights for the accused, but thoroughly investigated and people are punished," she said on Fox News Sunday. "Whether it is Hadithah or what happened at Abu Ghraib, I can assure you that the investigation will be thorough and that people will act on what is learned," she said.
"We have had some bad incidents and there continue to be allegations of others which will be investigated," Rice said, "but overwhelmingly American forces there [are] putting their lives on the line every day, protecting Iraqis, helping to liberate them."
For more information on U.S. policies, see Iraq Update.
The transcripts of Rice's interviews on Fox News Sunday, CNN's Late Edition, and CBS's Face the Nation are available on the State Department's Web site.