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Thread: "Menu Of Possibilities" May Await Iran

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    "Menu Of Possibilities" May Await Iran

    "Menu of Possibilities" May Await Iran

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060112/...kxBHNlYwN0bQ--

    By ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer 2 hours, 4 minutes ago

    WASHINGTON - The Bush administration, the prime proponent of punishing Iran for its disputed nuclear program, cheered developments Thursday that moved the case closer to the U.N. Security Council.

    The United States still would not predict harsh penalties for Tehran, and some officials signaled they would accept a lesser punishment, seen as the more likely outcome.

    "There are a variety of options, a variety of tools at the disposal of the international community once it has been referred to the Security Council," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

    "I think that we will, at a time of our choosing in the international system, begin to actually apply those various means," she said.

    Rice would not say whether the U.S. believes it has enough votes in the Security Council for economic penalties against Iran.

    China and Russia traditionally have been reluctant to take that step and French diplomats on Thursday bristled at the idea. The council also includes important trading partners of oil-rich Iran.

    "We're not yet at the point to talk about specific measures that might be taken once we're in the Security Council," Rice said. "There will be a menu of possibilities."

    Hauling Iran before the council would be a diplomatic victory for the administration. The U.S. contends Iran is hiding a weapons program behind its public drive to develop civilian nuclear energy. Iran says its intentions are purely peaceful.

    Weak or inconclusive action by the council could leave the administration again seeking a way to derail what Washington insists is Iran's path to nuclear capability.

    "The council should call for the Iranian regime to step away from its nuclear weapons ambitions," Rice said. "The United States will encourage the Security Council to achieve this end."

    The U.S. long has favored using the considerable powers of the Security Council against Iran while waiting for international negotiations to play out.

    Iran's selection of a hard-line president and a series of provocative steps on the nuclear issue have helped erode world support for Tehran.

    The British, French and German foreign ministers said Thursday that efforts to negotiate with Iran had hit a "dead end" and that the Security Council should step in.

    After Rice spoke, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Iran's top nuclear negotiator had told him that Tehran wants to resume negotiations and impose a deadline.

    Iran broke U.N. seals at a uranium enrichment plant this week and said it was resuming nuclear research after a two-year freeze. Enriched uranium can be used as a fuel for both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.

    The European ministers called for a special session of the International Atomic Energy Agency to vote on referring the matter to the Security Council. It was a move that Rice indicated was certain.

    The ministers did not say what the council should do; French diplomats said questions about penalties against Iran were premature.

    Wide-ranging penalties against Iraq over its 1990 invasion of Kuwait had harsh consequences for Iraqis, so the council since has moved toward more targeted measures. Such steps include arms embargoes against countries and rebel groups engaged in warfare, and travel bans and asset freezes against key individuals.

    In the case of Iran, the Security Council probably will increase pressure gradually, starting with a condemnation and demanding that Tehran comply with the IAEA's decisions.

    If Iran resisted, Western envoys almost certainly would push for penalties or issue a stern threat to do so.

    Rice drew a distinction between Iran's leadership and its people.

    The United States has "enormous respect" for Iranians, Rice said. "It's a great culture, it's a great people that should be on the road to modernization and integration into the international system. We don't want to see those people isolated."
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