Monday, September 25, 2006

Rice says she would not back gas embargo on Iran

The Washington Post:
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she did not support a gasoline embargo on Iran as a way of punishing Tehran for refusing to give up its uranium enrichment program.

In an interview for publication in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Rice said there were "limitations on the oil card" against Iran, which failed to meet an August 31 U.N. deadline to give up uranium enrichment.

"I don't think that it was anything that you have to look at it in the near term and I'm not sure that it (a gasoline embargo) would have the desired effect," she said, according to a transcript of her interview released by the State Department. READ MORE

Such a move would serve merely to reinforce the Iranian leadership's desire to make the local population feel that America was against the Iranian people, she said.

"You want to stay away from things that have a bad effect on the Iranian people to the degree that you can," she said. "That's something we really do have to fight against and some believe a gasoline embargo might play into that."

Political directors from the major powers are discussing what sanctions might be imposed against Iran if it continued to refuse to abandon its enrichment program, which the United States says is aimed at producing a bomb and Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.

U.S. officials say there is still not agreement on what form sanctions might take and France, China and Russia are wary about such measures, believing negotiations between the European Union's chief negotiator Javier Solana and Iran should be allowed to run their course.

Solana and Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani were set to meet in Europe, possibly on Tuesday. Asked earlier by reporters in New York whether she was hopeful about those talks, Rice said: "We'll see."

The Washington Times cited Bush administration officials as saying Iran is close to a deal that would include a temporary suspension of uranium enrichment and clear the way for nuclear talks. It said the deal could be completed either Tuesday or Wednesday.

In an interview with The New York Times, Rice said the United States was willing to give Solana more time to see if he could find a formula by which the Iranians agreed to suspension, thus allowing negotiations to begin.

"I frankly don't know if it will work," she said. "I hope it will work because obviously, the best outcome here would be that the discussions with Solana allow the Iranians to suspend and then we can have comprehensive negotiations on their program and anything else that they'd like to bring up."

But if these talks did not work, Rice told the Journal she was optimistic that China and Russia would support punitive measures against Iran.

Moreover, she said any sanctions would have "collateral effects" on the willingness of private companies and private banks to do business with Iran.

"Iran is not North Korea," Rice said. "It's not isolated and it is pretty integrated into the international financial system. And that actually makes its potential isolation more damaging."