The United States supports a European effort to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear program but has not "eliminated any alternative," US Vice President Dick Cheney said.
In favor of diplomatic efforts, for the moment: Dick Cheney
"I think there's a good-faith effort under way by our European allies to try to resolve this issue diplomatically. We support that effort," Cheney said in an interview with Fox News Sunday.
"The Iranians, I think, should do the right thing, and they should, in fact, agree to transparency, reassure the outside world that they are not trying to acquire nuclear weapons," he said.
Condoleezza Rice in Germany with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder
Cheney’s words echo those of US Secretary State Condoleezza Rice, who was in London and Berlin last week to reassure European leaders that Washington is behind the EU in continuing to pursue diplomatic solutions to the Iran nuclear standoff. Military action against Iran is “not on the agenda at the moment,” she said in response to concern on this side of the Atlantic that the US may be preparing a show of force to coerce Tehran into abandoning its nuclear program.
Room for negotiation?
The US, which has not always seen eye-to-eye with Europe on the nuclear issue, is convinced Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a guise to develop atomic weapons. Referring to the Islamic Republic as one of the central forces in the “axis of evil,” Cheney and US President George W. Bush have made no secret of their impatience with Tehran. Europe, however, has argued for continuing diplomatic measures.
It seems the US may now be willing to wait out the negotiations.
"(The Iranians) know very well that we do not want them to acquire nuclear weapons, nor does the civilized world," the vice president said. "I can't think of anybody who's eager to see the Iranians develop that kind of capability.”
Leaders from Iran, Germany, France and Britain meet to discuss Tehran's nuclear program
"Now, we are moving to support efforts to resolve it diplomatically," Cheney said in a nod towards current efforts by Britain, France and Germany to offer Iran trade and development assistance in return for suspending all uranium enrichment-related activities.
Leaving options open
The Iran-EU talks began in Brussels in December, moved to Geneva in January and are scheduled to resume Tuesday in Geneva, according to diplomats.
"If this process breaks down, the next step probably is to go back to the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency and ultimately refer to the United Nations Security Council for the imposition of international sanctions on Iran.
"There are a number of steps here to be considered. We have not eliminated any alternative at this point, but we obviously are seriously pursuing diplomatic resolution of this problem," Cheney said.