In the strongest message to date addressed to the Iranian leadership, US Vice President Dick Cheney warned Teheran that the US is not ruling out any option in preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. "The United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime", Cheney said to 5,000 Aipac members gathered in Washington for the organization's annual policy conference.
Cheney, who received a standing ovation from the crowd after his harsh words towards Iran, added that "the United States joins other nations in sending that regime a clear message: we will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon" and that the international community will impose actions that will have "meaningful consequences" if Iran continues to develop its nuclear program.
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US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and discussed the Iranian nuclear program, making clear that the US would not agree to any proposal which will include uranium enrichment on Iranian soil. The US is still pushing for the UN Security Council to take up the Iranian issue and begin a process of international pressure on Teheran.
In his speech at the Aipac conference, Vice President Cheney stressed the US' opposition to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority and said that if the Hamas wants the help of America and the international community, it must recognize Israel's right to exist. "One thing is certain - the United States will not be a part to the establishment of a Palestinian State that sponsors terror and violence", Cheney said and added that "Israel can count on the United States of America".
On the final day of Aipac's policy conference, the delegates heard from Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who spoke to the conference via satellite, as did leaders of Kadima and the Labor in previous days. Netanyahu, whose speech was greeted with strong applause from the audience, called to build an "iron wall" around the Hamas which would isolate them diplomatically and financially and called to push the separation fence back in order to secure Israel in defensible borders. Netanyahu said that Israel must not give the Hamas "one inch".
The Aipac conference ended with thousands of delegates going to Capitol Hill for 450 lobbying appointments. Aipac leaders expect that following these meetings many members of congress will join the bill calling on the administration to stop financial aid to the Palestinian Authority and putting strict limitations on humanitarian aid and diplomatic relations with the Palestinians. On Monday a similar bill was introduced in the Senate. The Senate bill is considered to be more moderate than that of the House and includes a waiver provision, which allows the President to override the limitations in the law if needed.
Meanwhile, Iran on Tuesday offered to suspend full-scale uranium enrichment for up to two years, a diplomat said. The offer reflected Teheran's attempts to escape Security Council action over the activity, which can be used to make nuclear arms.
The diplomat told The Associated Press that the offer was made in the context of contacts between Iran and Russia on moving Teheran's enrichment program to Russia. But the diplomat, who insisted on anonymity for discussing the confidential information, said the Iranians were not prepared to freeze small-scale enrichment, a key demand of Moscow, Washington and other nations.
Earlier Tuesday, Iran's state television reported President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the UN nuclear agency to compensate Iran for its suspension of nuclear activities in 2003.
Ahmadinejad made the call shortly before the International Atomic Energy Agency began a second day of talks in Vienna that will include Iran's nuclear program. The meeting is expected to file a report on Iran to the UN Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions on the country.
"The IAEA now has to compensate Iran for causing damage to the development of its science, technology and economy" due to the suspension of nuclear activities, the television quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
Under heavy pressure from the West, Iran suspended its enrichment of uranium and related activities in 2003 as a goodwill gesture and began negotiations with the big three European powers on a framework for its nuclear development. Iran has said the suspension put hundreds of scientists out of work.
Ahmadinejad's claim that the IAEA had a debt to Iran appeared to be another bid to put pressure on the world body as it considers its report on Iran to the Security Council. On Sunday, Iran warned that if the issue goes to the council, it would begin large-scale enrichment of uranium.
In a second thrust at the diplomatic maneuvers over Iran's nuclear program, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Tuesday that the United States wanted the Russian and European mediation efforts to fail.
"It is evident that the United States has no interest in Iran's reaching an agreement with either of its negotiating partners (Russia or Europe)," state television quoted Asefi as saying.