World Bulletin/News Desk
The United States has an obligation to pursue nuclear negotiations with Iran before it considers going to war with Tehran to force it to give up its nuclear activities, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday.
"We took the initiative and led the effort to try to figure out if before we go to war there actually might be a peaceful solution," Kerry told a group of reporters.
Iran reached a landmark preliminary agreement with six world powers, including the United States, in November to halt its most sensitive nuclear operations, winning some relief from economic sanctions in return.
U.S. President Barack Obama, like his predecessors, has said that all options are on the table with regard to Iran's nuclear program, using diplomatic code for the possibility of military action.
While U.S. officials have long held out that threat, Kerry's comments appeared to indicate the Obama administration would seriously consider a strike on Iran if the diplomatic talks fail.
"I happen to believe as a matter of leadership, and I learnt this pretty hard from Vietnam, before you send young people to war you ought to find out if there is a better alternative," said Kerry, who served in the Vietnam War as a young U.S. naval officer.
"That is an obligation we have as leaders to exhaust all the remedies available to you before you ask people to give up their lives and that is what we are doing" with Iran, he added.
The Obama administration is under pressure from Republican lawmakers threatening to revive a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran, a move the White House is warning could interfere with delicate nuclear talks to find a lasting agreement. Iran denies allegations by the United States and some of its allies that it is seeking to develop the capacity to build nuclear weapons.
Pressure from lawmakers may increase with signs that easing of sanctions pressure on Tehran has boosted oil export.
Sources who track tanker movements told Reuters that Iran's oil exports rose further in February for a fourth consecutive month. In addition extra cargoes had headed to Syria and South Korea in February, according to a second tracking source.
Kerry said Iran was so far keeping its end of the bargain under the Nov. 24 agreement by, among other things, reducing its stock of 20 percent enriched uranium, not enriching uranium above a purity of 5 percent and not installing more centrifuges.
"Generally speaking, they have done I think everything that they were required to do with respect to the reductions," Kerry told reporters.
"There's no centrifuge challenge. They haven't put any in. They ... have reduced their 5 percent. They have reduced the 20 (percent)," he added. "They are in the middle of doing all the things that they are required to do." (Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Lisa Shumaker)
U.S. acts like poor nation
Kerry also decried what he called a "new isolationism" in the United States on Wednesday and suggested that the country was beginning to behave like a poor nation.
Speaking to reporters, Kerry inveighed against what he sees as a tendency within the United States to retreat from the world even as he defended the Obama administration's diplomatic efforts from Syria to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In comments tied to the budget that U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to present on Tuesday, Kerry suggested that tighter spending, in part at the behest of congressional Republicans, may limit U.S. clout around the world.
"There's a new isolationism," Kerry said. "We are beginning to behave like a poor nation," he added, saying some Americans do not perceive the connection between U.S. engagement abroad and the U.S. economy, their own jobs and wider U.S. interests.
Kerry made the case as Obama prepares to release a budget that will adhere to spending levels agreed to in a two-year bipartisan budget deal struck late last year, entailing some spending cuts the administration would have preferred to avoid.
The U.S. State Department budget will decline slightly in the president's budget submission, Kerry said, saying this was a direct result of the bipartisan budget deal that cut funding further than Obama wanted.
"This is not a budget we want. It's not a budget that does what we need," he said, saying the budget deal entailed cuts demanded by the Republican-led House of Representatives. "It was the best the president could get. It's not what he wanted."
In speaking of what he called the "new isolationism," Kerry cited the limited support in the U.S. Congress to back Obama's plan to launch an air strike against Syria last year because of its suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians.
Obama, in a decision criticized by some U.S. allies in the Gulf and elsewhere, asked Congress to vote on a strike. With limited congressional backing, he ultimately abandoned a strike and pursued a deal to get Syria to give up its chemical weapons.
"Look at our budget. Look at our efforts to get the president's military force decision on Syria backed up on (Capitol Hill). Look at the House of Representatives with respect to the military and the budget," Kerry said.
"All of those things diminish our ability to do things," he added.
Kerry took particular aim at critics of his efforts to get the Syrian government and the opposition that has sought to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for nearly a year to reach a peace agreement that would entail Assad's departure.
A second round of peace talks in Geneva broke up on Saturday, with chief mediator Lakhdar Brahimi lamenting a failure to achieve much beyond agreement on an agenda for a third round.
"These people who say that it's failed or that it's a waste of time ... Where is their sense of history?" Kerry said.
"How many years did the Vietnam talks take? How many years did Dayton take in Bosnia-Herzegovina?" he added. "These things don't happen in one month. I mean it's just asinine, frankly, to be making an argument that after three weeks it's failed."
Kerry blamed the lack of a diplomatic resolution on the marked shift in momentum on the ground to Assad's forces, backed by Iran and by the Lebanese militant group Hizbollah, as well as on what he called "the opposition's machinations."
"The dynamics on the ground shifted and with that shift, I believe, came an additional ingredient ... which was the infighting of the opposition began to divert from the focus on Assad," he said.Last Mod: 27 Şubat 2014, 11:44