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Rice says time for talking with Iran is over

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza RiceReuters – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday there was strong international consensus against Iran’s nuclear plans and time had run out for talking to Tehran.
With Italy’s foreign minister at her side, Rice said the next step must be to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council. The United States believes Iran is building a nuclear bomb but Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful, energy purposes.
"The referral absolutely has to be made," Rice told reporters.

"Iran must know that there is a firm international consensus against the activities that Iran is currently engaged in. We would all like to solve this diplomatically and we are all committed to doing so but Iran must recognize the concerns of the international community and has not done so."

Iran on Sunday urged the European Union to return to negotiations with Tehran on its nuclear program, saying talks were the only way to defuse its nuclear standoff with the West.

Rice said the time for talking was over and European discussions had come to a "dead end" because of Iran’s actions. "I don’t see much room for further discussion in any format," said Rice.

Asked whether the United States, which has about 140,000 troops in Iraq, could afford to take military action against Iran, Rice said the focus was on diplomacy but reiterated that no options were off the table.

"We have committed to a diplomatic course," said Rice, adding: "The president takes no options off the table."

The United States and the European Union want the International Atomic Energy Agency, at an emergency board meeting on February 2, to refer Iran to the Security Council for pressure including possible sanctions.

Israel’s Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said over the weekend that Israel was preparing to protect itself if international diplomatic efforts failed to convince Iran to give up its nuclear program.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini urged Israel to focus on diplomatic and not military measures against Tehran.

"We want to stress to our Israeli friends that the only way to guarantee peace and security is the diplomatic route," he said.

Fini said Italy, one of Iran’s biggest trading partners in Europe, made it very clear to Iran that it must cooperate.

"The international community must be united and very resolved. It is now absolutely necessary to refer the case to the Security Council," he said.

He said the Iranian president’s "unacceptable tone" made action even more urgent but stressed military action was not an option.