U.S. pushes U.N. sanctions on Iran



By Matthew Lee

NEW YORK – The Bush administration moved Wednesday to cement international support for new U.N. sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programs and rebuked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for declaring the issue “closed.”

A day after a defiant Ahmadinejad told the United Nations General Assembly that his country would defy further U.N. Security Council efforts to impose additional penalties, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her top aides sought to marshal consensus on the move.

“I am sorry to tell President Ahmadinejad that the case is not closed,” said Nicholas Burns, the State Department’s No. 3 diplomat. He was to meet with senior diplomats from the five permanent Security Council members and Germany to craft elements of a new sanctions resolution.

“We’re going to keep going,” Burns told reporters. “If Mr. Ahmadinejad thinks somehow that he has been given a pass, he is mistaken about that.”

Burns’ talks over dinner with diplomats from Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany will set the stage for a second meeting on Thursday and then one between Rice and the group’s other foreign ministers on Friday.

However, he said it is unlikely that the text of a new resolution will be agreed to this week.

As Burns spoke, Rice was assuring Iran’s wary neighbors in the Persian Gulf of U.S. backing to improve their defenses against a “hegemonistic Iran” through proposed multibillion dollar arms sales, a senior State Department official told reporters.

In a meeting with the foreign ministers of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – along with Egypt and Jordan, Rice heard deep fears about Iranian attempts to dominate the region, the official said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a private diplomatic exchange, said all eight countries told Rice that “they are not going to surrender to Iranian hegemony.”