Iran walks away from nuclear talks

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her French counterpart warned Iran on Friday that Tehran faces referral to the powerful U.N. Security Council unless it backs away from its defiant stance on nuclear energy.France and two other European powers have tried to persuade Iran to drop what the United States insists is a covert drive for nuclear weapons, but Iran walked away from talks and has resumed nuclear activities it suspended during negotiations.

"There's also the option of the Security Council. It is a course that is available to the international community, so it's important that the Iranians negotiate in good faith," Rice said at a news conference after meetings with French President Jacques Chirac and French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy.

"We must make the Security Council option credible," Doust-Blazy said. The upcoming constitutional vote in Iraq, Lebanese politics and the potential spread of bird flu were also on Rice's agenda. She called for complete transparency between nations to avoid a flu pandemic.

"We believe firmly that there has to be complete transparency about what is going on with avian flu. The world should not be caught unawares by a very dangerous pandemic because countries refuse to share information, and so that is our very strong concern," she said at the Paris news conference with French leaders.

France and the United States cooperated last year on a United Nations resolution calling on Syria to pull troops and intelligence agents out of Lebanon, where Syria dominated for nearly 30 years.

Although Syrian troops did depart during a spring of political upheaval in Lebanon, the United States and its allies say there is no doubt Syria is still trying to influence politics under a newly elected government.

Rice will see Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country's foreign minister in Moscow for talks on several Middle East issues, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday. The stop comes as Rice nears the close of an eight-nation zigzag across Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, France, Russia and Britain.

Russia handed the United States and European partners a subtle diplomatic victory last month when it abstained rather than vote no on a measure setting up possible United Nations punishment over a nuclear energy program in Iran the United States insists is a cover for bomb making, reports the AP. I.L.

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