By BARRY SCHWEID
The Associated Press – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday condemned Iran’s decision to resume its nuclear program, saying the Islamic republic and its current leaders are not trusted with such technology.
"I think we have a good deal of coherence in the view of the major powers about the fact that Iran stepped over a line" when it resumed reprocessing nuclear fuel, she said at a foreign policy forum.
On Jan. 10, Iran removed some U.N. seals from its main uranium enrichment facility in Natanz in central Iran and resumed research on nuclear fuel — including small-scale enrichment — after a 2 1/2-year freeze.
"Nobody wants Iran to have that capability," Rice said at Georgetown University.
Iran claims its purpose in processing is peaceful. The process also could produce weapons-grade nuclear material.
Rice said Iran has a history of covering up its activities from oversight by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will decide in early February whether to refer Tehran’s activities to the U.N. Security Council.
Despite Iran’s stated objectives of developing more civilian energy, Rice said, "no one does trust them with those technologies."
"The Iranians want to make this about their rights. It’s not about their rights. It’s about the ability of the international system to trust them with the capabilities and technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon," Rice said.
The United States, France, Britain and Germany want the Board of Governors of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency to convene an emergency meeting on Feb. 2 to refer Iran to the Security Council.
President Bush called German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday to discuss recent developments in Iran, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. He said the world’s patience with Iran has worn thin.
"I think we’re long passed the point of talk," McClellan said. "We expect action from the regime in Iran. And the only action they have shown has run contrary to the demands of the international community."
Earlier Wednesday, Rice brushed aside suggestions about a possible resumption of negotiations with Iran. France kept up the pressure, saying Iran must first suspend its nuclear activities.
"There’s not much to talk about," Rice said during a photo session at the State Department with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.
Solana agreed "there is not much point" in resuming talks if there is "nothing new on the table."
Later, after seeing Rice and national security adviser Stephen Hadley, Solana told reporters that Russia had proposed having the Security Council host a debate on Iran’s nuclear activities.
Solana said Russia made the proposal at a meeting Monday in London with senior U.S., European, Russian and Chinese diplomats. Such a debate would postpone a possible IAEA referral at least until the agency’s March meeting.
But Solana said "we have the votes" now to refer the dispute to the Security Council, and he did not support the notion of delay.
Rice said Iran must not be allowed to have a nuclear weapons capability or "to pursue activities that might to a nuclear weapons capability."
In response to a question at the university, Rice said Iran presented "a very difficult problem" — for its support of terrorism in addition to its nuclear program.
"Iran, unlike so many countries in the region, has been going backward in terms of development at home," she said.
She said that while much of Iran’s population "wants democracy and reform … the unelected mullahs have done nothing but take power away" from those seeking more democracy.