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(photo credit: AP [file])
The UN Security Council is taking too long to impose additional sanctions on Iran, top US State Department official Nicholas Burns told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday night.
"We need to make progress on the sanctions against Iran. It's been months since we should have passed a third security council resolution, a sanctions resolution against Iran," said Burns, the under secretary for political affairs and No. 3 at the State Department.
He added that the resolution should be passed in the coming month, despite statements from Russia questioning whether Iran is indeed seeking to obtain nuclear weapons. "We want very much to work with Russia and China to get that done as quickly as possible in the month of November," Burns said.
Though it has long been clear that the United States was displeased with a deal worked out by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency giving Iran time to detail its past nuclear activities, it is rare for the Bush administration to indicate dissatisfaction with the pace of the Security Council.
Burns also told the Post he was not concerned that the upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, could do more harm than good, despite fears expressed by several Israeli leaders across the political spectrum that an unsuccessful conference might lead to increased bloodshed.
Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin, who was in Washington meeting with US officials ahead of the conference, currently slated for the end of November, backed the increased American diplomacy. But he warned that since this conference had been preceded by seven years of diplomatic inaction, "It might be a huge disaster conducive to violence."
"We believe this conference is necessary," Burns said in response to concerns such as those of Beilin. He noted the strong support the US has for Israel as well its friendship with the Palestinians. "We're trying to be helpful, but this process is going to be dictated by the people on the ground."
Burns spoke to the Post following his keynote address to the American Task Force on Palestine, a forum that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice first addressed last year.
He told the audience that the Annapolis meeting would be consistent with the road map plan for peace, and that as part of that, Israel and Palestinians needed to adhere to their obligations.
"Israel should halt settlement expansion, remove unauthorized outposts and reduce its footprint in the West Bank. I know the Israelis are serious about peace, but it is important that the Palestinian people know and see that as well," he said to applause.
"The Palestinians have to seriously undertake reforms to show that they can govern themselves, and to set up the necessary institutions of their future state. They have to work harder to combat terror and extremism in their communities to prove that a Palestinian state can thrive peacefully alongside its neighbors," Burns continued.
He noted the respect he has for Palestinian Americans, a community which he is familiar with through his sister-in-law, Nayla Baha.
"Her mother and father fled Jaffa in May 1948, thinking they would return in a few days or weeks. But instead, the cruel fate of history determined that they would be refugees for more than 40 years," he said, noting that they eventually ended up in America.
"From my ties to Nayla's family, I have learned that Palestinians, like all people, yearn for security and stability and freedom. I have learned that they have an extraordinary devotion to their families, and education, and most especially, to peace."