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Iran Must Cease Reprocessing Says Rice While Rebuffing Congressional Subpoena

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attends NATO's informal foreign ministers meeting in Oslo 26 April 2007. The United States will try to persuade Russia today of the importance of expanding its missile shield into Europe, at NATO talks that will also focus on Kosovo's future status and Afghanistan. Photo courtesy AFP.

Iran nuclear plant payments 'inadequate': Russia
Moscow (AFP) Apr 26 - Insufficient payments from Iran for the construction of the country's first nuclear power station are delaying its completion by Russia, a top Russian nuclear official said Thursday. The head of Russia's federal agency for atomic energy Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, said the timetable for Russian contractors to complete the Bushehr plant in the south of Iran would depend on timely and full payments. "When the payments are adequate, work is not interrupted," Kiriyenko was quoted by a spokesman as saying. "For the moment I would not call them adequate." "For now it is premature to talk of a specific time frame for the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power station," Kiriyenko was quoted as saying. The completion of the power station, which is 95 percent ready, and the delivery of nuclear fuel by Russia, planned for this year, have been delayed by what Moscow described earlier as financial problems. Iran has been under pressure from the United States and the European Union to freeze its civilian nuclear programme and Washington has called on Moscow to halt construction of Bushehr.
by Staff Writers
Oslo (AFP) Apr 26, 2007
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that Iran must stop all uranium reprocessing activities in order to head off further UN sanctions. Rice reiterated an offer by the United States and its major power allies of trade and political incentives for Iran as well as the start of direct negotiations if Tehran accepted UN demands to stop uranium enrichment.

"The only condition for beginning those discussions ... is that Iran suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities," Rice said during a visit to Oslo for talks with NATO and Russian foreign ministers.

Rice's comments appeared to rule out a mooted compromise under which Iran could pledge not to expand its current reprocessing activity without actually halting the work.

"What we can't have is Iran practising enrichment and reprocessing, because that's what they're doing -- you get better at it over time -- at the same time that we're in negotiations," she said.

Speaking as top European and Iranian negotiators met in Turkey on the nuclear issue, Rice said the guiding principle for any contacts with Tehran had to be "suspension for suspension."

"That means that we would be prepared to withhold further action in the UN Security Council if Iran is prepared to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing," she said.

Iran says it wants to enrich uranium to fuel nuclear power plants, while the United States and its allies believe the Islamic Republic is bent on producing highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.

Rice said Iran had proven it could not be trusted on the issue by hiding its enrichment efforts from international inspectors for nearly 20 years.

"There is no confidence about Iran's intentions here, they appear to be moving toward a nuclear weapon," she said.

Rice spoke shortly after Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani said talks Thursday in Ankara with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana had brought the two sides closer to a "united view" on ending the crisis.

The talks were the first face-to-face meetings between Larijani and Solana, who represents the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany, since a second round of limited UN sanctions on Iran in March.

More talks are scheduled in two weeks.

Diplomats had said earlier that the six world powers were ready to compromise and give Iran a face-saving chance to edge its way slowly into stopping uranium enrichment.

One diplomat said a new idea would be for Iran to declare a moratorium on moving beyond enrichment activities it has already started.

earlier related report
Rice Rebuffs Congress On Iraq War Subpoena
Oslo (AFP) April 26 - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signalled Thursday that she would not comply with a subpoena to appear before Congress to testify about discredited assertions on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

"This is an issue that has been answered and answered and answered," Rice said when asked about the subpoena during a visit to Oslo for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.

Rice said her staff had written three letters in the last month to Democratic congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, concerning his questions about bogus 2003 White House assertions that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had sought enriched uranium from Niger as part of a program to develop nuclear weapons.

President George W. Bush included the claim in his State of the Union message weeks before launching the March 2003 invasion of Iraq even though top intelligence officials believed the allegation to be baseless.

Rice, who was Bush's national security adviser at the time, said Thursday that she was willing to provide additional information to Waxman's committee in writing.

But she added that her White House work was covered by the constitutional principle of executive privilege, a principle presidents have in the past used to shelter aides from being forced to testify under oath in Congress.

"If there are further questions that Congressman Waxman has, then I am more than happy to answer them again in a letter, because I think that that is the way to continue this dialogue," she said.

"This all took place in my role as national security adviser," Rice continued.

"There is a separation of powers, and advisers to the president are, under that constitutional principle, not generally required to go and testify in Congress," she said.

"I think we have to observe and uphold constitutional principles," she said, adding: "I think I have more than answered these questions and answered them directly to Congressman Waxman."

But Rice stopped short of ruling out an appearance before Waxman's committee and when asked if she would comply with the subpoena, her spokesman Sean McCormack said, "We haven't decided yet."

In announcing the subpoena on Wednesday, Waxman said Rice's tenure as Bush's top security adviser in the run-up to the Iraq war gives her unique insights into why the administration pressed its claim about the Niger uranium link to Saddam Hussein.

Allegations that Iraq was seeking to build weapons of mass destruction provided the main justification for the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

But no such weapons were found and top intelligence officials have since revealed that the report concerning Iraq's alleged bid to obtain uranium from Niger had been discounted prior to Bush's 2003 State of the Union address.

The Central Intelligence Agency notably sent a retired diplomat, Joseph Wilson, to Niger to check on the claims, and he reported back that they were groundless.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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North Korea May Be About To Invite UN Atomic Inspectors
Seoul (AFP) April 26, 2007
South Korea's spy agency said Thursday that North Korea may be preparing to invite UN atomic inspectors to its key nuclear facility, as a prelude to shutting it down. Unusual activity has been spotted around the Yongbyon reactor, which produces the raw material for plutonium to make nuclear weapons, parliament's intelligence committee said in a statement.

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