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US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rejected Wednesday the linkage concept, according to which ending Israeli-Palestinian strife is the key to resolving the other conflicts in the Middle East.
The Israeli-Palestinian issue is "ready to be resolved on its own terms," Rice told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She said she wanted to be "very clear" that the US government was pushing for peace between Israelis and Palestinians as an end in itself, and not in order to get other diplomatic returns.
She also rejected conjecture that the Bush administration was acting aggressively against Iranians in Iraq and bulking up its presence in the region in preparation for a war with the Islamic Republic.
"We are not planning...an attack on Iran," she said. "What we are doing is responding to a number of Iranian policies in Iraq and around the world [that] are quite dangerous to our national security."
Rice also welcomed legislation proposed by committee chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) Wednesday that, he said, would expose the "pure fiction" of Iran's claims that it is developing nuclear capabilities for civilian purposes.
Lantos's bill would provide for the creation of an International Nuclear Fuel Bank under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which would allow all countries to receive nuclear fuel and thereby preclude nations' need to develop their own uranium enrichment capabilities. The idea is that this would prevent countries from mastering the fuel cycle, and with it the means to build nuclear weapons.
"If Iran's nuclear program is truly peaceful, Teheran should welcome an opportunity to ensure a stable supply of nuclear fuel from an internationally supported nuclear fuel bank located in a safe nation," he said during at HFAC hearing on the State Department's 2008 budget. "If Iran is instead building a nuclear weapon, its nefarious intentions will be quickly exposed should it refuse to participate in this important project."
Lantos said that Iran's ability to argue that it wants a nuclear plan for civilian use hurt American attempts to build an international consensus to thwart Teheran's nuclear ambitions.
"Iran's excuses prevent us from exerting strong multilateral pressure on Iran through increased economic sanctions," he told Rice, who was testifying before Lantos's committee.
Rice embraced the concept, long-debated in the international arena, and said administration officials had already held some discussions on the topic.
"We would like very much to work with you on this legislation because it falls very much in the context of what the president thinks we need to do," Rice responded. "There's a lot we could do with this idea."