Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice turns up heat on Iran

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice turned up the heat on Iran over its nuclear ambitions after a bruising trip to Russia and ahead of a meeting yesterday with key ally British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Rice, who arrived in London on Saturday, also warned Tehran against stoking the insurgency in neighboring Iraq after Britain alleged that recent attacks on troops there may be linked to Iran and the militant group Hezbollah.

In its defense, Iran's envoy to Britain rejected Washington's belief that the Islamic republic sought to develop nuclear weapons and insisted it needed nuclear energy to replace oil stocks when they run out. Ambassador Seyed Mohammed Hossein Adeli also denied that his country was involved in Iraq's insurgency.

Rice said Iran must resume negotiations with the EU on finding an acceptable solution to the nuclear issue.

In an interview with the BBC, she said referral to the UN Security Council was on the cards "when the diplomacy has run its course." "The Iranians need to go back to the negotiating table," said Rice. Talks with the so-called EU-3, Britain, France and Germany, broke down in August. At that time, Iran ended a freeze on fuel cycle work by resuming uranium conversion, a precursor to potentially dual-use enrichment work.

"They need to come to a conclusion that will allow them, if they wish [for] civil nuclear energy, to do that without raising concerns in the international community," Washington's top diplomat said.

Iran also said yesterday that it wanted to return to nuclear negotiations with the EU, but gave no ground on the EU's key demand that it halt all nuclear fuel processing before talks can resume, reports Taipei news. I.L.

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