Iran rejection of nuclear deal becoming clear: Rice

By Carol Giacomo, Diplomatic Correspondent
Thu Jan 5, 2006 02:34 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday Iran's resumption of atomic fuel research would signal its rejection of a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis, but stopped short of saying this would finally trigger a U.S. push for U.N. Security Council action.

Rice said she hoped "diplomacy has not been exhausted," but added that it was "becoming clearer" Iranians are not accepting a diplomatic compromise that constrains their nuclear ambitions.

Rice addressed State Department reporters after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday Iran would resume atomic fuel research next week despite warnings from the West that this would endanger efforts to find a diplomatic compromise.

She said if Iran proceeded with sensitive nuclear research "it really will be a sign that they are not prepared ... to actually make diplomacy work."

Rice refused to be pinned down on a timeline for tougher diplomatic action, but said Washington will take the case to the Security Council at "a time of our choosing."

Another U.S. official, who is involved in nonproliferation issues but spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the diplomacy, told Reuters if Iran went ahead with the research on Monday as announced, the United States and its European allies likely would call an early meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors and push to have Iran's case referred to the Security Council, which could impose broad international sanctions.

The IAEA board is due to meet in early March, but that meeting could be moved forward, maybe to February, the official said.

A European diplomat described the situation as much more fluid.

"The only thing I can say is we are intensifying our discussions but when and what kind of initiative will come out of it, it's still too early to say," said the diplomat, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

The diplomat and two U.S. officials said it remains unclear whether key nuclear states Russia, China and India would side with any U.S.-EU initiative. Russia and China have veto power in the Security Council.