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. Rice gives London total support over Iran
LONDON (AFP) Oct 16, 2005
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday gave full backing to Washington's key ally London over its handling of Iran, accused of developing nuclear weapons and involvement in insurgent attacks on British troops in Iraq.

"The British are doing everything that they can," regarding Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions, Rice told reporters before heading to lunch with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at his country residence Chequers, north of London.

Talks between Iran and Britain, France and Germany (the EU-3) broke down in August, when Iran rejected a deal that offered trade and other incentives for a full cessation of fuel cycle work, the focus of fears that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons.

"The British, the French -- you heard: the French -- the EU-3 absolutely are clear" in their refusal to see Iran acquire nuclear weapons, Rice said Sunday.

Rice arrived in London on Saturday from Russia, where Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov clashed with Rice by defending Tehran's right to enrich uranium for atomic energy.

Iran meanwhile on Sunday said that it would not return to a full freeze of its disputed nuclear activities, but nevertheless voiced confidence it would not face referral to the UN Security Council.

On September 24 the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted a resolution on Iran's nuclear programme which -- while falling short of an immediate call for the issue to be taken to the UN Security Council -- set out the steps that could lead there.

Since then Tehran has indicated it is willing to resume talks, but reiterated its right to process uranium.

September's vote "was an opportunity for the Iranians to get back into negotiations to find an acceptable solution that allows them to have a civil nuclear power that does not raise questions", Rice said Sunday.

"I am not (going) to set deadlines... At the time of our choosing, we will push for a referral" to the Security Council, she added.

Rice was meanwhile equally supportive over Britain's accusations that a series of deadly attacks on troops in southern Iraq provided evidence leading back to Iran and the militant group Hezbollah.

"I have every reason to believe that the British are right about this," the secretary of state told BBC radio.

"I trust the British on this issue because the British are operating in the south (of Iraq). They know the situation there. The British are our allies, I have every confidence in what the British are saying."

Rice told reporters: "We have tried to get over a message to them about this issue."

The United States does not have an ambassador in Iran, where its interests are represented by Switzerland, while Tehran has a permanent representative at the UN in New York.

"We have channels. We use them rarely, specifically, to deliver messages," Rice added.

She was due to return to Washington later Sunday after a week-long official tour that began with a four-nation tour of Central Asia, before moving on to Paris, Moscow and finally London, where she held a working dinner Saturday with her counterpart Jack Straw.

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