Associated Press – The Bush administration signaled Thursday that time is running out for Iran to avoid being taken before the U.N. Security Council over its disputed nuclear program. Officials also condemned new anti-Israel remarks from Iran’s president.
"We are moving into a period of time with Iran where I think we’re going to have to, the world is going to have to make some decisions," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.
Rice avoided declaring an end to negotiations between Tehran and European nations that are intended to avert punishment at the U.N. Her skepticism about progress in the talks was clear, however, and she chose unusually blunt language to lay out the probable next step.
"When it’s clear that negotiations are exhausted, we have the votes" to take Iran before the Security Council for possible punishment, Rice told reporters. "There is a resolution sitting there for referral. We’ll vote it."
Separately, the State Department and the White House reacted harshly to reported remarks from Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The president said Thursday that he hoped for the death of Israel’s ailing prime minister, Ariel Sharon. It was the latest anti-Israeli comment by Ahmadinejad, who already has drawn international scorn for suggesting that Israel be "wiped off the map."
"Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Chatilla has joined his ancestors is final," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency.
Sharon, as defense minister in 1982, directed Israel’s ill-fated invasion of Lebanon. An Israeli commission found him indirectly responsible for a massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Ahmadinejad’s remarks were "hateful and disgusting."
"And this is a man who wraps himself in the cloak of a peaceful religion, Islam, and yet you hear remarks like this coming from him," McCormack.
McCormack said the Iranian people "are suffering as much as anybody else from this particular regime. This regime has isolated the Iranian people from the rest of the world in a matter of months – through its actions and its statements."
In the past two months, Ahmadinejad also has called the Holocaust a "myth" and said if Europeans insist it did occur, then they should give some of their own land for a Jewish state, rather than the one in the Middle East.
"I think that his continued outrageous comments only further underscore the concerns that the international community about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.
"Iran’s statements and actions only continue to further isolate themselves from the international community," McClellan said. "If they continue on the path that they are going, and the negotiations continue to run their course, then we will have no option, the international community that is, will have no option but to look to the Security Council."
The United States accuses Iran of using a program to develop nuclear power plants as a way of disguising ambitions to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusation and has threatened to resume some nuclear research that was suspended during talks with the Europeans.
The U.S. is not a party to the talks, but is supporting European efforts to divert Iran from pursuing technology that could be used for bomb-making. The U.S. has no diplomatic relations with the nation that stormed the American Embassy in Tehran, the capital, in 1979 and held Americans hostage for more than a year.
The U.S. repeatedly has threatened Security Council action against Iran, without setting any deadlines. Rice acknowledged that, but said the latest stern language isn’t mere "saber rattling."
"I don’t have any doubt that at the right time, a time of our choosing, we’re going to go to the Security Council if the Iranians are not prepared to do what they say they want to do, which is to pursue peaceful nuclear energy," Rice said.