Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Rice Confident of Support to Pressure Iran

Anne Gearan, The Washington Post:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday she is confident the United States eventually will get strong backing from other members of the U.N. Security Council despite division at the start of a U.S.-driven review of Iran's disputed nuclear program. READ MORE

Diplomats said Monday that Russia and China have refused to sign on to a unified set of demands to Tehran, raising the threat of an impasse that could mean the U.S., Britain and France may not quickly win the strong action they seek from the powerful U.N. body.

"I intend to let the diplomacy continue for awhile before we determine what the outcome is going to be," Rice said during a diplomatic visit to the Indonesian capital.

The Security Council was beginning its discussion of the Iran case later Tuesday. The United States began pushing for that review more than two years ago, and has gradually won converts in Europe, Asia and elsewhere.

"I'm quite certain that we'll find the appropriate vehicle for expressing the international community's solidarity," Rice said.

The United States and its allies say Tehran is hiding ambitions for a nuclear weapon behind a legitimate program to develop nuclear energy. Iran denies it.

Rice spoke following a tour of an Islamic grade school that receives U.S. funding and a meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda. She was also seeing Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a U.S.-educated former general.

Russia and China, Tehran allies that have opposed Security Council review or sanctions for Iran in the past, agreed to let the matter come before the Security Council. It is not clear what those veto-holding nations will do at this point, however.

Rice had a reminder for Russia, which asked for and won a month's delay in the Security Council review that it had hoped to use to win an accord with Iran that could have averted sanctions or other harsh measures by the United Nations. That time has run without a deal.

"We've fulfilled that part of that bargain," Rice said of the compromise delay with Russia. "Now it's time for this to be discussed in the Security Council."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that no power can take nuclear technology away from Iran and vowed that his country will resist Security Council pressure.

"Rest assured that the technology to produce nuclear fuel today is in the hands of the youth of this land and no power can take it back from us," Ahmadinejad said.

Rice's day began with the school tour in a ragged Jakarta neighborhood. Hundreds of police and several U.S. Marines guarded the school, and a water cannon stood by to ward off potential protesters.

Andina Sukma Wati, a 10-year-old girl with a traditional white headscarf and a bright pink backpack asked Rice how a girl can grow up to be a high government officer.

"You start by studying hard," Rice told her.

The Makmuriah Islamic School is subsidized under a $157 million education program President Bush announced during a visit here two years ago. Blue placards from the U.S. Agency for International Development were placed on the students' work tables for the benefit of visiting news cameras. They read, "From the American People."

Rice announced $8.5 million for a new education program involving the characters from "Sesame Street." She seemed unfamiliar with the characters from the long-running U.S. public television program however, muffing "Miss Piggy" as "Miss Pinky" before getting it right.

She saw only young children on her visit, and they asked her no hard questions. The State Department's point person for improving the U.S. image among Muslims, Undersecretary Karen Hughes, got a taste of the anti-Americanism prevalent here when she spoke to high school students last year.

"I understand that the United States has had to do things in the world that have not popular in much of the world," Rice said in response to a question about anti-American sentiment that rose after the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

About 5,000 Muslims rallied in front of the tightly guarded U.S. Embassy in Indonesia a week ago, demanding that American troops leave Iraq and Afghanistan and calling Bush a terrorist and colonialist.