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. Diplomacy is 'best course' to stop Iran nuclear work, Rice says
WASHINGTON, Dec 7 (AFP) Dec 07, 2008
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged Sunday that Iran had not yielded to international demands to stop sensitive nuclear work, but said diplomacy remained "the best course."

Rice told Fox television that the world community is more united than ever in trying to stop Iran from enriching uranium when asked whether Iran is closer than eight years ago to having the technology to build an atomic weapon.

"Iran is still pursuing quite clearly the technology that can lead to a nuclear weapon, but Iran also faces a heavy set of sanctions," Rice said.

Iran faces sanctions not just through the UN Security Council but also "through the companies and banks that will no longer deal with Iran," she added.

"Iran's isolation has deepened. Indeed, Iran is more isolated and there's a greater international consensus about the Iranian program than at any time," Rice said.

When asked if President George W. Bush's promise to stop Iran from making a nuclear weapon was in vain, Rice said "we are working very hard with the international community to make certain they don't get the technology.

So far, Rice said "the Iranians have not given (in) to the demands of the international community. But we continue to put the pressure on, and the diplomatic course is really the best course."

Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview published Saturday in the Los Angeles Times that international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear activity have been a failure.

Though it has pursued multilateral diplomacy, the Bush administration has been reluctant to meet with Iranian officials before they suspend uranium enrichment. Three sets of UN sanctions have been imposed for such refusal.

ElBaradei said President-elect Barack Obama gave him "lots of hope" because he is ready to talk to Iran and other adversaries rather than dictate conditions for talks.

"To continue to pound the table and say, 'I am not going to talk to you,' and act in a sort of a very condescending way -- that exaggerates problems," he told the newspaper.

Iran, a leading OPEC oil producer, denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and says it aims to provide energy for its growing population when its reserves of fossil fuels run out.

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