NATO Envoys Back Rice In Urging Iran Sanctions

By Matthew Lee
Associated Press
Friday, December 7, 2007

BRUSSELS, Dec. 6 -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her counterparts from European allies agreed Thursday to seek new U.N. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Foreign ministers from the NATO alliance urged new U.N. measures to persuade Iran to stop uranium enrichment and reprocessing, despite a new U.S. intelligence report that concluded the country halted its nuclear weapons ambitions in 2003.

At a working dinner in Brussels, the alliance's headquarters, the ministers accepted the Bush administration argument that Iran remains a threat and needs to be treated as such, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht told reporters.

"On Iran, everybody around the table agreed we should not change our position," he said after the dinner, at which Rice presented Washington's position.

Earlier Thursday, ahead of

Rice's meetings in Belgium, the leaders of France and Germany expressed similar sentiments, calling for a two-pronged approach of pressure and negotiations with Iran.

"I think we are in a process and that Iran continues to pose a danger," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Paris at a news conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, responding to the American findings released Monday.

Sarkozy, who supports Washington's view, said he backs new sanctions. "The threat exists," he said.

In Brussels, Rice met with European and Russian officials to bolster the U.S. case in her first face-to-face sessions with world powers that are considering new sanctions since the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate was made public.

"I don't see that the NIE changes the course that we're on," Rice told reporters as she flew to Belgium for talks that will include Russia, which, along with China, has resisted new Iran sanctions.

"In fact, I would think given the assessment that Iran is indeed susceptible to coordinated international pressure that [this] is the right approach," she said, referring to the NIE finding that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program because of intense diplomatic activity.

Rice met Thursday with the foreign ministers of Italy, Belgium and Britain, as well as with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Formal alliance meetings will be Friday.

Iran was a major topic in all of those discussions and will be again on Friday when Rice sees Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, perhaps the figure most suspicious of the U.S. policy on Iran, and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

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