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Interview by David Wright of ABC News

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Vienna, Austria
June 2, 2006

QUESTION: I know that you can't go into details about what is on the table here, but can you give us a sense of the range? How sweet is the carrot? How sharp is the stick?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would describe both of the paths as quite robust, very robust. In fact, that the proposals to Iran are, as Margaret Beckett put it, far-reaching, which is as it should be because this is designed to give Iran a very clear choice. But on the other hand, the international community is prepared to move along the second path in a robust manner as well should Iran refuse to negotiate. So we're very pleased with the outcome of these discussions. We're very pleased that our partners were indeed supportive of the idea of the United States joining the negotiations, which could give new momentum to the diplomatic solution should Iran choose to take it.

QUESTION: I notice the word "sanctions" seems to be missing.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you don't know what words are in this proposal.

QUESTION: You know the characterizations of it --

SECRETARY RICE: I'm not going to talk about what's in it and what isn't. But everyone understood when we came here that we wanted a commitment from our partners that we would be prepared to take robust action in the Security Council if Iran fails to negotiate, and we have that commitment.

QUESTION: And that's a diplomatic, a more polite term for sanctions?

SECRETARY RICE: I'm not going to get into specifics here. We are in a negotiation. We are in a diplomatic phase. We need to give time for the Iranians to see what's really before them.

QUESTION: How much time for Iran to reply to this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, this has been going on for a while and the world needs to know whether the negotiations, in fact, really are possible. And so we can't wait months here. I would say weeks, not months.

QUESTION: And what if Iran says no?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, if Iran says no, then we're going to have to go down the alternative path, and that's well understood by the representatives of the international community that were at that table.

QUESTION: Are you confident that everyone at that table is prepared to take that step?

SECRETARY RICE: I'm quite confident that we established both paths last night, not just one.

QUESTION: The U.S. has taken a very tough stand on Iran for many, many years. Big change this week. Has it been working?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the U.S. and Iran have many, many differences going back many, many years, to the seizure of our embassy which was a really searing event because people don't do that in diplomacy. I mean, that's really one of the worst things you can do to a set of diplomats who are just there trying to represent our country. So of course we have differences. And Iranian support for terrorism and Iranian activities in Iraq and of course the treatment of their own people.

Yet I do think that if it is -- if the United States' entry into multilateral talks on the nuclear program can help to arrest that program, then it is most certainly worth it. It's indeed the nature of the regime that leads us to be concerned about -- particularly concerned about a nuclear weapon in their hands.

QUESTION: Is this a model for North Korea, perhaps?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we are in talks with North Korea. The North Koreans have the opportunity to come back to the table anytime. And by the way, there there aren't conditions because we have been engaged in the six-party talks. So this is a good way for the international community to exert its influence rather than just having the United States somehow one-on-one with an Iran or with a North Korea. It demonstrates to an Iran or to a North Korea that this is not about the United States and them; this is about the international community's demand.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. We're out of time.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.


Released on June 2, 2006

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