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Rice tells nuke watchdog to butt out of Iran diplomacy

  • Story Highlights
  • U.N. watchdog chief ElBaradei wants slowdown in discussions on sanctions
  • Rice says ElBaradei's group isn't in the "business of diplomacy"
  • U.N. readies third sanctions resolution against Iran for its uranium enrichment
  • U.S. and other nations seek to divert Iran's alleged nuclear weapons ambitions
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From Elise Labott
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SHANNON, Ireland (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cautioned the U.N. nuclear watchdog group Wednesday not to interfere with international diplomacy over Iran's alleged weapons program.

Condoleezza Rice criticized the U.N. nuclear watchdog group Wednesday while en route to the Middle East.

The International Atomic Energy Agency "is not in the business of diplomacy," Rice told reporters traveling with her to the Middle East.

The IAEA's role should be limited to carrying out inspections and offering a "clear declaration and clear reporting on what the Iranians are doing; whether and when and if they are living up to the agreements they have signed," she said.

Rice was referring to recent comments made by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, in which he criticized U.S. rhetoric about Iran.

ElBaradei has called for less emphasis on additional U.N. sanctions against Iran in favor of enhanced cooperation between the IAEA and Tehran. Iran has agreed with IAEA requests to answer unresolved questions about its nuclear program.

Iranian officials insist their nuclear program is aimed at producing civilian electric power, but the Bush administration accuses Tehran of working toward a nuclear weapon. President Bush has called the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran "unacceptable."

Rice said the IAEA agreement with Iran was "a good thing," but "this wouldn't be the first time the Iranians made an agreement only to break it"

She said the U.N. Security Council is working on a third resolution imposing additional sanctions against Iran for failing to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

The elements of a possible resolution will be discussed in Washington on Friday at a meeting of the political directors of the "P5 plus one" -- Germany and the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: Britain, France, China, the United States and Russia.

Those talks will continue next week in New York when Rice meets with her counterparts on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, she said.

"The United Nations Security Council has in two resolutions set forth obligations that Iran must fulfill," Rice said. "It is not up to anybody to diminish or to begin to cut back on the obligations the Iranians have been ordered to take under Chapter Seven unanimous United Nations Security Council resolutions. "

Rice insisted that Bush was committed to diplomacy, but has not taken any options off the table. She said the United States has confronted Iranian agents in Iraq when they are believed to be threatening American forces.

She encouraged Iran to take advantage of international offers of economic incentives and improved Western relations in exchange for suspending its nuclear program.

"We believe the diplomatic track can work," Rice said. "But has to work both with a set of incentives and a set of teeth."

Separately, European Union members Britain, France and Germany have led Western powers in negotiations with Tehran. But French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned Sunday that Europe must prepare for war if Iran continues to flout international demands.

The U.N. Security Council slapped sanctions on Iran in December after Tehran refused international demands to freeze its production of enriched uranium.

It is not the first time the IAEA director has butted heads with Rice over Iran. ElBaradei has often criticized what he called "war mongering," only to be told by Rice to mind his business.

ElBaradei and the IAEA won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for efforts to stop nuclear proliferation. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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