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Rice slams Islamic Regime human rights record

 
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 9:26 pm    Post subject: Rice slams Islamic Regime human rights record Reply with quote



Rice slams Islamic Regime human rights record
From correspondents in London
February 04, 2005

Source URL: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,12145329%255E1702,00.html

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stepped up Washington's verbal assault on Iran today, saying the hardline Islamic regime's treatment of its people was "something to be loathed".

"I don't think anybody thinks that the unelected mullahs who run that regime are a good thing for either the Iranian people or for the region," Ms Rice told reporters accompanying her to Europe and the Middle East.

"I think our European allies agree that the Iranian regime's human rights behaviour and its behaviour towards its own population is something to be loathed," she said.

Ms Rice arrived in London this evening to start a week-long tour of Europe and the Middle East, her first trip abroad since replacing Colin Powell last week.

Ms Rice picked up on US President George W. Bush's State of the Union address in Washington yesterday, branding Tehran "the world's primary state sponsor of terror" and pledging solidarity with Iranians' desire for freedom.

She came close to advocating outright regime change in the clergy-ruled Islamic republic, which Mr Bush famously included in his "axis of evil" three years ago alongside North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

"What we support is that the Iranian people should have a chance to determine their own future, and right now under this regime they have no opportunity to determine their own future," she said.

Iran and its suspected nuclear arms program were likely to figure prominently during Ms Rice's trip, which precedes a trip to Europe later this month by Mr Bush.

Her itinerary includes Britain, Germany and France, which are involved in a halting effort to persuade the Iranians to renounce their suspected nuclear ambitions.

Some European officials have called for more direct US involvement in the negotiations, but Ms Rice demurred.

"The Iranians know what they need to do," she said.

"It's not the absence of anybody's involvement that is keeping the Iranians from knowing what they need to do."


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 10:02 pm    Post subject: Rice criticizes Iran on first trip abroad Reply with quote

Rice criticizes Iran on first trip abroad

Source URL : http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/apeurope_story.asp?category=1103&slug=Rice
By ANNE GEARAN
AP DIPLOMATIC WRITER


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice departs Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on her first trip as Secretary of State to Europe and the Middle East, Thursday, Feb 3, 2005. (AP Photo/ Jacqueline Malonson )
LONDON -- Iran's approach to human rights and its treatment of its own citizens is loathsome, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday. While saying Iranians deserve better leaders than "unelected mullahs," America's new chief diplomat stopped short of demanding their ouster.

At the start of her first trip abroad since succeeding Colin Powell at the State Department, Rice also told reporters that last weekend's election in Iraq vindicates the U.S.-led toppling of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The invasion was broadly unpopular in many of the European capitals that Rice will visit over the next week. A major goal of Rice's trip is to shift the subject in Europe toward the possibility of Middle East peace and other mutual goals.

"I don't think anybody thinks that the unelected mullahs who run that regime are a good thing for the Iranian people and for the region," Rice said en route to London, her first stop. Her itinerary includes visits to Jerusalem and the West Bank to encourage peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Rice planned to meet on Friday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. In stops in Berlin later Friday and Paris next week, she may run into war opposition that still lingers.

Iraq's elections for a national assembly "clearly remind us why we worked to liberate the Iraqi people from that terrible dictator," Rice said.

Acknowledging that "we all know that it's been difficult in Iraq," Rice said she still would "trade anytime" the stability offered under Saddam's rule for the self-determination promised by the election.

"It should just remind us all that those of us who had the good fortune to live on the right side of freedom's divide have an obligation to those who are left on the other side of freedom's divide to try to achieve their aspirations," Rice said.

On that point, she said, even those who "disagree about what we did or when we did it," can unite.

"I don't think there's anyone in Europe or anyplace else that thinks that the Iraqi people deserved Saddam Hussein," Rice said.

It is not clear how much international support there is for any potential action against Iran. The United States has been cool to European efforts to negotiate a halt to suspected Iranian nuclear weapons development, preferring stiffer measures such as economic penalties.

"I think that our European allies agree that the Iranian regime's human rights behavior and its behavior toward its own population is something to be loathed," Rice said.

Asked directly whether the United States supports a change in leadership in Iran, Rice said: "We are engaged in a process with many others that is aimed at making clear to the Iranians that their behavior internally and externally is out of step with the direction and desire of the international community."

During his State of the Union address Wednesday night, President Bush urged the government in Tehran to "end its support for terror. And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."

On Thursday, Iran's supreme leader said Bush's policies toward Iran will fail.

"America is like one of the big heads of a seven-headed dragon," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in Iran's capital. "The brains directing it are Zionist and non-Zionist capitalists who brought Bush to power to meet their own interests."

At her Senate confirmation hearings last month, Rice said the United States wants "a regime in Iran that is responsive to concerns that we have about Iran's policies, which are 180 degrees" antithetical to America's interests.

Rice said she does not plan to attend next week's Middle East summit meeting in Egypt, although she said it was one of several hopeful signs for peace.

Rice will meet with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders ahead of that summit, but she indicated Thursday that the United States is taking something of a hands-off approach, for now.

"Not every effort has to be an American effort," Rice said. "It is extremely important that the parties themselves are taking responsibility. It is extremely important that the regional actors are taking responsibility."

President Bush pledged $350 million in aid for the Palestinians in Wednesday's State of the Union speech. Rice said it is too soon to say how that money will be spent.

She issued a veiled rebuke to Arab countries that have lagged behind Europeans and others in financial or other support for Israeli-Palestinian peace or have not acted to quell terrorism.

"Some in the region have not been as generous as they might be," Rice said. "I think it is time for everybody to look deep inside and say, `If we want the Israeli-Palestinian peace to be achieved and sustain momentum, what more can we do?'"
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 11:11 pm    Post subject: Rice signals harder line on Iran Reply with quote

Rice signals harder line on Iran
Secretary to meet Mideast, European leaders
From CNN State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel
Friday, February 4, 2005 Posted: 0047 GMT (0847 HKT)

Source : http://edition.cnn.com/2005/ALLPOLITICS/02/03/rice/

The new secretary of state had a front-row seat for the State of the Union address.

LONDON, England (CNN) -- In a move likely to rattle Iran's rulers and frustrate allies in Europe, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has signaled that the Bush administration is adopting a harder line towards Iran -- but she has stopped short of explicitly calling for regime change.

"The Iranian people should have a chance to determine their own future," Rice told reporters en route to London on her first international trip as secretary of state.

"They should be no different from the Palestinians or Iraqis or other peoples around the world."

During his State of the Union address Wednesday night, U.S. President George W. Bush hinted that the United States would support any grassroots movement to change Iran's government, now run by hard-line Islamic clerics.

"And to the Iranian people, I say tonight, as you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you," Bush said.

The tougher U.S. talk comes only days after Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, during her confirmation hearing, that administration's goal was to have a regime in Iran that was "responsive to concerns that we have about Iran's policies."

For months, Britain, France and Germany have been negotiating directly with Iran to freeze its suspected nuclear weapons program, which the Iranians insist is for peaceful purposes.

Recently, Iran agreed to temporarily suspend enrichment of uranium -- which can be used to develop to nuclear weapons -- while talks continue with Europe about possible trade deals.

The Europeans have tried to persuade Bush and Rice to take a more active role in the talks, convinced a U.S. offer to lift sanctions on Iran is a key to a permanent deal.

Rice's arrival in London comes after several days of unusually upbeat news out of Iraq, following Sunday's nationwide elections for a transitional national assembly.

During the flight to London, Rice told reporters one of the main objectives of her trip would be to discuss with European allies how to expand "freedom and liberties" to places where they have not existed before, citing as examples recent elections in Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Ukraine.

In France Tuesday, Rice plans to deliver a major policy speech focusing on expanding democracy around the world.

During her week-long swing through Europe and the Middle East, Rice will also focus on laying the groundwork for the president's trip later this month.

The unspoken message of the trip is the desire the turn a new page in the trans-Atlantic relationship, after years of tension and animosity following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Rice will be making stops in London, Berlin, Warsaw, Ankara, Rome, Brussels and Luxembourg. She will also travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories in the hopes of re-invigorating the derailed peace process.

During her visit, the secretary expects to meet both Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Those meetings will come on the eve of a summit between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders hosted by Egypt, the highest level meeting between the two sides since the start of the Palestinian intifada in the fall of 2000.

Before arriving in London, as a memento of her maiden voyage as secretary of state, Rice gave each member of the traveling press corps on board her plane a pocket world atlas because, she said, "We're going to travel a lot, and I wouldn't want anyone to feel lost."
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 11:33 pm    Post subject: Rice, in Europe, says Iran's behavior 'something to be loath Reply with quote

Rice, in Europe, says Iran's behavior 'something to be loathed'
Thu Feb 3, 6:57 PM ET

Source URL: http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20050203/wl_uk_afp/usriceiran_050203235750

LONDON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) stepped up Washington's verbal assault on Iran, saying the hardline Islamic regime's treatment of its people was "something to be loathed."

Kicking off a tour of Europe and the Middle East, Rice echoed US President George W. Bush (news - web sites)'s State of the Union speech Wednesday branding Tehran "the primary state sponsor of terror" and pledging solidarity with Iranians' desire for freedom.


"I don't think anybody thinks that the unelected mullahs who run that regime are a good thing for either the Iranian people or for the region," the new chief US diplomat told reporters aboard her plane en route for London.


"I think our European allies agree that the Iranian regime's human rights behavior and its behavior towards its own population is something to be loathed," Rice said.


She came close to advocating outright regime change in the clergy-ruled Islamic Republic that Bush famously included three years ago in his "axis of evil" along with pre-war Iraq (news - web sites) and North Korea (news - web sites).


"What we support is that the Iranian people should have a chance to determine their own future, and right now under this regime they have no opportunity to determine their own future," she said.


Iran and its suspected nuclear weapons program are likely to figure prominently in Rice's talks on her first trip abroad since taking over the helm of US diplomacy from Colin Powell (news - web sites) a week ago.


Her itinerary includes Britain, Germany and France, which are trying to persuade the Iranians to renounce any nuclear ambitions. Some Europeans have called for more direct US involvement, but Rice demurred.


"The Iranians know what they need to do. It's not the absence of anybody's involvement that is keeping the Iranians from knowing what they need to do," she told reporters.


"They need to live up to their obligations, they need to agree to verification inspections, they need to stop trying to hide activities under cover of civilian nuclear power."


Rice said the United States was "coordinating closely" with the Europeans and took heart from what she called an "increasing consensus" within the world community, including Russia, that Iran's nuclear arms hopes must be checked.


The United States has in recent weeks ratcheted up its rhetoric on Iran. Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites) said it topped the list of world trouble spots and Bush refused to rule out military action to dismantle its suspected nuclear weapons program.


In his annual address to Congress on Wednesday, Bush again rapped Tehran on the nuclear and terrorism issues and added: "To the Iranian people I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."


The United States also accuses Iran of interfering in neighboring Iraq and supporting Islamic militants in efforts to wreck chances for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Rice, the former national security adviser, made clear in her Senate confirmation hearings for secretary of state last month that Washington wanted to see the end of the regime in Tehran whose interests "are 180 degrees antithetical to our own."


The top American envoy is due to confer early Friday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw before heading off to Germany.


The week-long trip will also take her to Poland, Turkey, Israel, the West Bank, Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg for talks with national leaders, EU and NATO (news - web sites) officials and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Ankara on Saturday.





The trip is billed as a warm-up to Bush's European tour late this month aimed at repairing rifts with US allies sparked by the Iraq war. Rice is also hoping to stoke newly revived momentum in the Middle East peace process.

Rice will meet Sunday and Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites) and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas a day before the two sides hold their first summit in more than four years in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

After Bush announced Wednesday a new 350-million-dollar (270-million-euro) aid package to promote Palestinian political, economic and security reforms, Rice encouraged other countries to provide material support for peace efforts.

She said the European Union (news - web sites) and some Middle East countries have been good contributors but, without mentioning names, added that "some in the region have not been as generous as they might be."

"It's time for everybody to look deep inside and say, if we want the Israeli-Palestinian peace to be achieved and to sustain momentum, what more can we do in terms of assistance," Rice said.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2005 6:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

US Seeks European Aid in Helping to Force Change in Iran

February 04, 2005
VOA News
David Gollust
http://www.voanews.com/english/2005-02-04-voa2.cfm


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, beginning her first foreign trip as Secretary, says the United States is seeking European help in trying to deal with destabilizing Iranian behavior with regard to terrorism, nuclear weapons and Iraq. She says the Iranian government's human rights record and treatment of its own people are something to be loathed.

Ms. Rice's comments on Iran in a talk with reporters en route to London were some of the strongest by a senior Bush administration official, though she stopped short of an outright call for regime change there.

The Secretary, beginning a weeklong trip to Europe and the Middle East, said one of her objectives will be to generate more international pressure on Iran to end support for terrorists, and to comply fully with its international nuclear obligations.

Mr. Rice was questioned about remarks by President Bush on Iran in his State-of-the-Union address Wednesday night.

In it, Mr. Bush reiterated U.S. criticism on Iran for alleged terrorism and pursuit of nuclear weapons, but also assured the Iranian people that the United States stands with them as they stand for their own liberty.

Pressed as to what this meant in policy terms, Mr. Rice said the remarks were not unlike past comments by the President, in which he has said that the aspirations of the Iranian people are being suppressed by an unelected few.

"In terms of the Iranian regime, I don't think anybody thinks that the unelected Mullahs who run that regime are a good thing for either the Iranian people or for the region," she explained. "The region is going in a quite different direction. And the President last night said that the Iranian people deserve better, essentially. I think our European allies agree that the Iranian regime, its human rights behavior, and its behavior toward its population, is something to be loathed."

Ms. Rice said the Iranian people should have an opportunity to determine their own future, and be no different in that regard than Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans and Ukrainians, all of whom have had recent elections.

The new Secretary expressed appreciation for efforts by Britain, France and Germany to persuade Iran to fully disclose its nuclear activity.

But she said Iranians have shown no real indication they are prepared to live up to international nuclear obligations and, in her words continue to play games every time they can.

She called for unity of purpose and message among the United States, Europe, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency in making clear to Iran the implications of its non-compliance.

Similarly, she said she hopes that all those who want peace between Israel and the Palestinians will recognize, and act on, Iran's disruptive activities in the region.

"The Iranians are one of the strongest supporters of the rejectionists in that process, whether it is Hezbollah or Iranian help to the Palestinian rejectionists," she added. "And you can't have it both ways, you can't say that you want peace between Israel and the Palestinians and not do everything you can to disable the Palestinian rejectionists and Hezbollah. And that will be a message that I think we will want to discuss with the Europeans."

Ms. Rice goes from London to Berlin, Warsaw and Ankara before making her first Middle East visit as Secretary of State, with talks Monday with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

She makes four more stops in Europe next week before returning to Washington.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2005 6:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rice Says U.S. Won't Aid Europe on Plans for Incentives to Iran

By New York Times - By Steven R. Weisman, Elaine Sciolino and David E. Sanger
Feb 4, 2005, 03:03


LONDON - Less than a day after President Bush declared he was "working with European allies" to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States would continue to rebuff European requests to participate directly in offering incentives for Iran to drop what is suspected of being a nuclear arms program.

Opening her first overseas trip as secretary, Ms. Rice also declared that the Tehran government's record on human rights was "something to be loathed" - a harsh comment that comes at a time when many European leaders have asked the United States to help lower tensions with Iran.

"I don't think anybody thinks that the unelected mullahs who run that regime are a good thing for the Iranian people or for the region," Ms. Rice said to reporters on her plane to London. "I think our European allies agree that the Iranian regime's human rights behavior and its behavior toward its own population is something to be loathed."

Ms. Rice made her remarks as the Iranians, the Europeans and many in Washington were dissecting Mr. Bush's comments about Iran - and far gentler words about Saudi Arabia and Egypt - in his State of the Union address on Wednesday night. In the address, Mr. Bush seemed to invite the people of Iran to liberate themselves from their clerical rulers, for the first time matching a specific nation to his Inauguration Day call for an end to tyranny around the world.

But he also sounded willing to support the Europeans in their initiative to negotiate an end to a key part of Iran's nuclear program.

"Today, Iran remains the world's primary state sponsor of terror, pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve," Mr. Bush said. "We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing, and end its support for terror. And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."

But he made no effort to urge the people of Egypt or Saudi Arabia to challenge their governments, even though both countries have turned aside Mr. Bush's past calls that they allow democratic forces to determine who will rule their governments. "The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future," he said in the speech, and Egypt "can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."

In Washington on Thursday night, a senior administration official said the reason for the difference was simple. "We do not have relations with the government of Iran, and it is not a government moving in the direction of giving its people greater participation in their affairs," the official said. "If anything, they have cracked down on the opposition."

But the official argued that "Egypt and Saudi Arabia are a contrast with Iran, because we do have good relations with those governments, and while they are not perfect they are nonetheless making steps toward greater participation."

The official, who was involved in the decisions leading up to the address, said Mr. Bush "wanted to answer the question asked after his inaugural: What do you do with countries that are allies in the war on terror but need to do more?"

In Iran on Thursday, the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, predicted that Mr. Bush, like every other American president since Iran's 1979 revolution, would fail to overthrow the Islamic republic.

"Bush is the fifth U.S. president who wants to destroy the Islamic republic," the ayatollah told university students. "But he will fail as did Jimmy Carter, Reagan, Bush senior and Clinton." Branding the United States "one of the heads of the dragon of world oppression," he charged that Mr. Bush had been installed in the White House by "Zionist and non-Zionist companies and capitalists to serve their interests."

Mohammad Sadegh Kharazi, Iran's ambassador to Paris, said in an interview on Thursday that Iran should be rewarded, not punished, by the United States for supporting the democratic electoral process in Iraq. "We were the only country in the region to fully support elections in Iraq," Mr. Kharazi said. "And in return we get President Bush's negative body language. America just doesn't want to understand our reality. Is it fair? No."

Iran has also made clear, at least in its public statements, that it has no intention of trying to export an Islamic republic to Iraq.

The questions about America's stance toward Iran coincide with fresh evidence that Iran may be violating the spirit, if not the exact terms, of its Nov. 15 agreement with France, Germany and Britain to temporarily freeze its program to enrich uranium. Enriched uranium can be used to produce energy or, at high enrichment levels, as fuel for nuclear weapons.

Last month, new negotiations began that could give Iran generous rewards on nuclear energy, trade and economic, political and security cooperation if it provides firm guarantees that it is not developing a nuclear weapon.

But the three European countries have uncovered evidence that Iran is doing maintenance work on centrifuge piping at an enrichment plant at Natanz in southern Iran, according to a British official.

The issue is regarded as serious enough that John Sawers, the senior British Foreign Office official involved in the negotiations, protested in meetings in Tehran on Wednesday with Iran's senior nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, a British official said.

The United States also has formally complained to the European negotiators about the issue, in a Jan. 28 letter from John Bolton, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, the British official said. "We are taking this issue extremely seriously," the official said. "We are reminding Iran of its obligations."

But it is not at all clear that the Iranian action actually violates the accord.

"It's a bad sign that the first time Iran is supposed to do what it agreed to that it looks as if it is trying to get away with something," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a nonpartisan arms control group in Washington. "This is something that makes everyone nervous."

Each revelation about Iran's nuclear program, however mild, is likely to make the Bush administration more hesitant to embrace the European view that the way to curb Iran's nuclear program is with engagement, not threats.

Mr. Bush has harshly criticized Iran's clerical rulers and, in the past, even suggested that he favored a change of government. In linking Iran with North Korea and Iraq as an "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address three years ago, he charged that Iran "aggressively pursues" weapons of mass destruction and exports terror "while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom."

But the administration has left its policy on regime change deliberately ambiguous. While a former deputy secretary of state, Richard L. Armitage, had once said the administration did not favor regime change in Iran, Ms. Rice said on Thursday that "what we support is that the Iranian people should have a chance to determine their own future." She said she hoped her trip would send "a very clear message" that Europe and the United States were united in their approach.

But in tone and substance, her comments suggested that a wide rift remained; Europeans continue to complain that the Bush administration was overly confrontational. Some Europeans fear that the American approach could lead to eventual attacks on areas suspected of being Iranian nuclear sites. The foreign ministers of several European nations have recently begun to warn that without American participation in an incentive package for Iran, their efforts could founder.

"There has to be a sense that there will be a U.S. buy-in to the solution," John Bruton, the European Union's representative to the United States, told reporters earlier this week, adding that the administration was "not engaged in the way we would like."

But Ms. Rice said Thursday: "It's not the absence of anybody's involvement that is keeping the Iranians from knowing what they need to do. They need to live up to their obligations."

This article is by Steven R. Weisman, Elaine Sciolino and David E. Sanger. Steven R. Weisman reported from London for this article, Elaine Sciolino from Paris and David E. Sanger from Washington.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2005 7:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2005 1:13 pm    Post subject: Attack on Iran 'not on agenda,' Rice says Reply with quote

Attack on Iran 'not on agenda,' Rice says

Source URL: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/nation/20050204-0616-rice.html

By Anne Gearan
ASSOCIATED PRESS
6:16 a.m. February 4, 2005

LONDON Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday a U.S. attack on Iran "is simply not on the agenda at this point," despite the United States' continued criticism of Iran's human rights record and suspected nuclear weapons ambitions.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has expressly said that regime change in Iran is not the U.S. goal. But Rice would not say whether the United States supports a change of government.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says a U.S. attack on Iran "is simply not on the agenda at this point."

Speaking to reporters on the plane as she began her weeklong trip, Rice said Iran's approach to human rights and its treatment of its own citizens were loathsome.

"I don't think anybody thinks that the unelected mullahs who run that regime are a good thing for the Iranian people and for the region," she said Thursday. On Friday, she referred to Iran's leaders as "an unelected few."

In London, first stop on a tour of European capitals, Rice said there is broad international agreement that Iran cannot be allowed to use a civilian nuclear power project to conceal a weapons program.

After a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Rice was asked directly whether the United States might attack Iran. Doing so could presumably head off the threat that Iran could use a nuclear device against Israel or other nations.

"The question is simply not on the agenda at this point," Rice said at a news conference.

Rice said, "We believe particularly in regard to the nuclear issue that while no one ever asks the American president to take all his options, any of his options off the table, that there are plenty of diplomatic means at our disposal to get the Iranians to finally live up to their international obligations."

She called the Iranian human-rights record "abysmal." Earlier, Rice said the Iranian regime's behavior in that area and others "is something to be loathed."

Asked during the plane trip here whether the United States should get more directly involved in the talks the Europeans are having with Iran, she said, "The Iranians know what they need to do. It's not the absence of anybody's involvement that is keeping the Iranians from knowing what they need to do."

Earlier, Rice met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the United States' closest ally in Iraq, holding her first meeting with a foreign leader since taking over from Colin Powell as the top American diplomat.

Their 90-minute breakfast meeting at Blair's Downing Street office covered Iraq, the Middle East and other subjects.

Rice thanked Blair for Britain's support in Iraq "as we work to support the Iraqi people in their quest and most especially ... as we try to bring to the Israelis and the Palestinians a chance for a lasting peace."


London is the site of a one-day conference in March to help the Palestinian government build democratic institutions.

En route to London on Thursday, Rice indicated the United States may take a back seat for now in the international effort to bring Israel and the Palestinians closer to a lasting peace.

Rice said she does not plan to attend next week's Middle East summit meeting in Egypt, although she will be close by for talks in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

"Not every effort has to be an American effort," Rice said. "It is extremely important that the parties themselves are taking responsibility. It is extremely important that the regional actors are taking responsibility."

She said the United States welcomes Egypt's help in hosting the summit and called it one of several hopeful signs for peace.

Middle East peace is one of the main topics for Rice's discussions with European leaders over the coming week, as is Iran. She will visit eight European capitals and the Vatican, with a weekend side trip to see the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

In stops in Berlin later Friday and Paris next week, she may run into opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Iran's nuclear ambitions also is expected to be a topic of discussion with Europeans who are trying to head off nuclear weapons development.

It is not clear how much international support there is for any potential action against Iran. The Europeans have offered Iran technological and financial support, and have hinted at a trade deal if weapons development stops. The Bush administration has been cool to the European diplomacy, preferring economic sanctions against Iran.

In his State of the Union speech Wednesday night, President Bush called Iran "the world's primary state sponsor of terror."

At her Senate confirmation hearings last month, Rice said the United States wants "a regime in Iran that is responsive to concerns that we have about Iran's policies, which are 180 degrees" antithetical to America's interests.

Iran's supreme leader on Thursday said Bush's policies toward Iran would fail.

"America is like one of the big heads of a seven-headed dragon," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in Iran's capital. "The brains directing it are Zionist and non-Zionist capitalists who brought Bush to power to meet their own interests."
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