Rice recommits U.S. to preventing Iranian nukes


WASHINGTON (JTA) — National Security Adviser Susan Rice recommitted the U.S. vow to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and said the United States would work to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

In her remarks at an Israeli Embassy event on Monday marking Israel’s independence, Rice said she discussed Iran last week in meetings in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reiterated the U.S. position “that Iran must not get a nuclear weapon.”

A U.S. team led by Wendy Sherman, an undersecretary of state, is in Vienna this week for the latest round of nuclear talks between Iran and the “P5 +1,” the major world powers including the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

“As the United States and our P5+1 partners engage in negotiations with Iran on a long-term, comprehensive agreement that resolves the world’s longstanding concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, we all have a responsibility to give diplomacy a chance to succeed,” Rice said at the embassy event.

“But America won’t be satisfied by mere words,” she said. “We will only be satisfied by verifiable action from Iran. Put simply, if we are not, there will be no deal.”

The Netanyahu and Obama governments differ over whether Iran should be allowed to maintain a constricted civilian uranium enrichment capacity as part of a final deal. Netanyahu says Iran must not enrich at all, while the United States and other members of the P5 +1 say a limited capacity is tolerable.

The extent of Iran’s capacity is said to be at the center of this week’s talks.

“As these negotiations progress, we continue to consult closely with Israel every step of the way,” Rice said at the embassy reception.

Speaking the same evening to the annual Washington gathering of the American Jewish Committee, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also said his country was committed to keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“France wants an agreement, but it is clear that we shall not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons,” the AJC quoted Fabius as saying in a news release. “The P5 +1 group must remain united to guarantee the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian program.”

Separately, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is touring the Middle East this week with stops in Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Pentagon spokesmen have said a focus will be the talks with Iran.

Rice also said the Obama administration would continue to work to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that collapsed last month.

“Even though we have reached a pause in the negotiations, we continue to encourage the parties to work and act toward a future of peace. “The United States will continue to do our part to help bring about the peaceful, hopeful future that both Israeli and Palestinian children deserve.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to meet Tuesday with Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who is now the envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian talks of the Quartet, the grouping of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations guiding the talks.

Later this week, Kerry will meet in London with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“While the door remains open to a peace process, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss our ongoing relationship with the Palestinians,” Kerry’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. “As he has throughout the process, Secretary Kerry will reiterate a call he has made to both sides to maintain restraint and refrain from steps that would be unhelpful.”

Since the peace talks collapsed, Abbas has applied for membership in a number of international conventions, a move Israel says preempts negotiations.

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