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Rice: Iran a 'troublesome regime'

From Elise Labott
CNN

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Iran
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Berlin on Thursday for talks on next steps to tighten the diplomatic noose around Iran, which she called "a troublesome regime for peace and stability."

Rice is attending a meeting of ministers representing the permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- known as the P5.

Germany, which with Britain and France took part in two years of talks aimed at ending the standoff over Iran's nuclear program, will also join the session. Iran has rebuked Western nations for referring the nuclear issue to the council after no agreement could be reached.

The talks stalled in January when Iran began small-scale uranium enrichment and ended its voluntary cooperation with the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, which had been conducting surprise inspections.

The council on Wednesday passed a presidential statement, the result of three weeks of dogged diplomacy that highlighted fissures among the five permanent members. The statement calls on Iran to comply with IAEA regulations within 30 days. (Full story)

With the tough negotiations about the U.N. text behind them, Rice said the ministers will "really have an opportunity to look ahead to next steps."

She called Thursday's talks an "opening discussion" about the diplomatic road ahead regarding Iran, but indicated that targeted sanctions against the Iranian government were likely options.

"A lot depends on what the Iranians do" in response, Rice said.

'A troublesome regime'

While U.N. diplomacy is expected to focus on the Iranian nuclear issue, Rice predicted the ministers would discuss Iran's support of Palestinian terrorist groups, its interference in Lebanon and Syria and inflammatory rhetoric from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

She said it all shows the current Iranian government "is a troublesome regime for peace and stability in the Middle East."

Rice called Iran's nuclear strategy a "salami" tactic, referring to how Tehran continued to change its ambitions slice by slice.

"First it was just going to be conversion," she said. "Then it was just going to be a small scale R and D [research and development], then it was going to be about centrifuge production. So I don't see Iran particularly constrained by the fact that the IAEA continues to operate in Iran right now.

"If Iran makes that threat and carries through on it then we will have a better view of what Iran's intentions really are," she said.

Rice was met in Berlin by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and she's also scheduled to meet with French President Jacques Chirac during a brief stop in Paris.

She then travels to Liverpool and Blackburn, England, where she will visit the home district of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. The trip will reciprocate Straw's visit to Rice's hometown in Alabama last October.

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