Rice in Berlin for Iran Talks
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne. In this part of the program, we have reports on Iran. First, the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are gathered in Berlin today to discuss Iran's nuclear enrichment activities. Condoleezza Rice joined them today.
Yesterday in New York, the Security Council approved a statement demanding that Iran suspend its nuclear program within 30 days. But in a confession to Russia and China, the statement does not threaten punitive measures. Nonetheless, Iran's U.N. ambassador insisted threats and pressure will not work, and that Iran plans to pursue a peaceful nuclear energy program. Washington Post reporter Glen Kessler is in Berlin with Secretary Rice. Hello.
Mr. GLEN KESSLER (Reporter, The Washington Post): Hello.
MONTAGNE: Now, it took three weeks of negotiations among the five permanent council members to come up with this rather weak, I think you could call it, statement. What's likely to come out of the meeting there in Berlin?
Mr. KESSLER: Well, the meeting, which also includes Germany, because it was one of the European negotiators with Iran, is intended to look at the next steps. Where do these major powers go from here in dealing with the Iranians and their nuclear program? I don't know if we're going to expect any grand announcements; it's really part of an effort by Secretary Rice to an engage a broader strategic discussion with these other countries about Iran. She wants, in fact, to raise concerns about Iran's other activities in the Middle East: its links to terrorist groups, other issues that she maintains shows that Iran is a threat to peace and security in the region.
MONTAGNE: So Iran has, though, 30 days to respond to this Security Council challenge. What happens then?
Mr. KESSLER: You begin to look a little bit like Groundhog Day for the diplomats because they show no inclination to do anything in the next 30 days. And then the United States and the Europeans will come back to the Security Council and say, see, this presidential statement wasn't enough; we need to do something more. And the Russians in particular have made it quite clear that they are concerned that a slow process of slightly tougher, slightly tougher statements from the Security Council and then resolutions and so forth will simply lead everyone on a path towards war.
MONTAGNE: What about sanctions against Iran? Will they ever be on the table?
Mr. KESSLER: They will be on the table. The question is, will they ever get off the table and actually be implemented? At this point, it would take a lot of diplomatic heavy lifting to see sanctions by the Security Council. At some point, the Americans might simply do a kind of coalition of the willing where they join together with a bunch of other countries to bring sanctions against Iran.
MONTAGNE: Well, you mentioned Groundhog Day. What about resolving this issue?
Mr. KESSLER: Well, that is the big $64,000 question. Many people feel that it may be all but impossible to prevent Tehran from ultimately achieving the ability to produce a nuclear weapon. What you can hope for is, through diplomacy and trade restrictions, that you can make it very, very difficult for them to actually do it any time soon, and then maybe, if the administration's hopes are realized, a different government comes into play and they may be more willing to be open with the world about what their nuclear plans are.
MONTAGNE: Thank you for joining us.
Mr. KESSLER: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: Washington Post reporter Glen Kessler in Berlin with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
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