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Burns Says U.S. Firm on Iranian Nuclear Dispute

(Washington, DC--August 20, 2007) U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns said the U.S. would continue to push for a third UN Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran in September to keep up the pressure on the Iranian regime to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Speaking at a RFE/RL roundtable today Burns said, "We intend to push it very very hard, and we certainly will never agree that because Iran has some meetings with the IAEA we should stop all of our efforts."

Burns also emphasized that the best way to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program is through diplomacy, saying: "We do have time for diplomacy...we should exhaust diplomacy and we are trying very hard to do that," while at the same time exerting economic and financial pressure on the Iranian government.

He called for stronger international support for a US proposal for tougher sanctions against Iran saying, "we need help on the sanctions issue and want it to come from our best friends and allies."

Asked why the US will not tolerate a nuclear Iran but has no problem with Pakistan or India possessing nuclear weapons, Burns said "we don't trust Iran, no one trusts Iran...because Iran's foreign policy is so mercurial, so violent and so destructive, no one wants to see a type of government led by Ahmadinejad in possession of nuclear weapons." Burns added that the Iranian people should understand the U.S. does not want to deny them a civilian nuclear program for electricity; that is why there's been a long-standing "offer on the table for an international consortium" to provide that power.

Burns elaborated on US concerns for Iran's policies towards Iraq. Asked how long the three-party talks will last, he said "as long as they are useful," but acknowledged that "we have not seen the response we would have liked," noting that "Iran has not stood up and used its influence to support a plural, multi-ethnic solution the US believes can be successful in Iraq...or stopped terrorists from crossing the border into Iraq," and continues to smuggle weaponry to Shi'a insurgent groups inside Iraq.

Burns today also said the United States will not reward Iran for bad behavior in Iraq and will offer no deal to induce the Tehran regime to stop supporting terrorists and insurgents. "There is no quid pro quo here," he said.

Burns made the statement earlier in the day in an exclusive interview to Radio Farda, the Persian language broadcast of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, commenting on current talks between the US and Iran on improving security in Iraq.

Key excerpts from the briefing with Under Secretary Burns briefing are posted in an article on the RFE/RL website.