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United States Pushes U.N. for Action Against Iran

JOHN YDSTIE, Host:

As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, the diplomatic options are limited.

MICHELE KELEMEN: And concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions will be high on President Bush's agenda when he meets Germany's chancellor on Wednesday.

GEORGE W: Listen, the first thing that has to happen diplomatically for anything to be effective is that we all agree on the goal. And we've agreed on the goal, and that is that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon, the capacity to make a nuclear weapon, or the knowledge as to how to make a nuclear weapon. And now that we've got the goal in mind, we're working on the tactics.

KELEMEN: But even close allies are questioning the Bush administration's tactics. The head of the German parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, Ruprecht Polenz, says Washington should show more patience and not be in such a rush to get targeted U.N. sanctions.

RUPRECHT POLENZ: Do you really think that if we could impose this and we got a U.N. Security Council resolution the Iranians will give in? No, probably not. So, and then what's next?

KELEMEN: Polenz was in Washington recently, suggesting the U.S. should talk directly with Iran, though he admits he didn't get any traction on that idea.

POLENZ: So far, the government here has not chosen what to prioritize: regime change or dealing with the nuclear problem. And I would suggest we should prioritize first dealing with the nuclear program.

KELEMEN: Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, blames the Bush administration for missing an opportunity to talk with Iran when America had a stronger hand. He says Iran tried to open talks soon after the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, when Iran thought it might be next.

LARRY WILKERSON: And we sacrificed that. We sacrificed it because we don't talk to evil. We don't talk to evil, that's a policy. That's a radical policy. It's a radical policy not to exercise diplomacy, particularly in matters that are of such strategic importance as Iran.

KELEMEN: As the American ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, recently pointed out, the U.S. already has long-standing sanctions on just about everything to do with Iran.

JOHN BOLTON: Importation of Persian rugs and pistachio nuts I think are open, so there are a few things we could take a look at. Those were opened in the Clinton administration, I'm told, to encourage small business in Iran.

KELEMEN: Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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