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. Rice defends Bush policy on Iran as 'successful'
WASHINGTON, May 21 (AFP) May 22, 2008
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday defended as "successful" the US administration's policy on Iran after Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama criticized its approach.

Though she sought to stay out of the presidential campaign, Rice told reporters that the United States and other powers agreed on what she considers a common, effective approach to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

"I will note that the Iranian problem is not just America's problem, it is an international issue, and it is an issue on which the international community is united in confronting Iran with choices before it," Rice said.

Flanked by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, a US ally on Iran and other issues, Rice recalled that Tehran must either halt its enrichment of uranium in return for economic benefits or face international isolation.

With its continued defiance, she said, the UN Security Council has adopted three sanctions resolutions against Iran while the United States has taken punitive measures of its own.

And Iran has paid an economic price with the "drying up" of international investment in its oil industry, economic infrastructure and export credits, the secretary of state said.

"I think this is called a successful multilateral coalition of states that have the same view" that Iran should be rewarded for its cooperation or isolated for its defiance, Rice said.

She added: "I would like to see what other options there are for the international community, given that this policy is one that I think is the best course for us."

Obama has been taking aim at Republican presidential candidate John McCain over his and President George W. Bush's policy toward Iran, including their stated refusals to engage Washington in high-level negotiations with Tehran.

"Thanks to George Bush's policy, Iran is the greatest threat to the United States and Israel and the Middle East for a generation. John McCain wants to double down on that failed policy," Obama said.

Rice refused to comment for now on Iran's offer to the United Nations to enter "serious and targeted" negotiations with world powers on a wide range of issues, including nuclear energy.

She said she needed to talk first with the other countries involved in the negotiations to encourage Iran to halt nuclear enrichment. Those countries are China, Russia, France, Britain, and Germany.

Miliband echoed her remarks.

"We don't want to get into a verbal rhetorical volleyball with these issues. They are too serious for that," Miliband said before traveling with Rice on Thursday to California to visit high-tech companies.

"We will all be looking very carefully obviously at the Iranian letter, but we will also be very clear that our own package needs to be addressed very very carefully by the Iranian regime," he said.

Miliband declined to say when and where the "refreshed" package of proposals -- which the six powers announced earlier this month in London -- would be presented to Iran.

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