Stumping for Democracy, Rice tells Aipac: No Nukes for Iran

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told supporters of Aipac (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) at its Washington convention that the United States would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.

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, | updated: 16:40

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told supporters of Aipac (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) at its Washington convention that the United States would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.

"The United States has focused the world's attention on Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction," Rice said. "And along with our allies we are working to gain full disclosure of Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. The world must not tolerate any Iranian attempt to develop a nuclear weapon, nor can it tolerate Iran's effort to subvert democratic governments through terrorism."

Rice took a hard-line stance against Iran just as the ‘Euro 3’, a tri-partite group made up by Britain, France, and Germany, prepared to meet with Iranian officials in Geneva this Wednesday in a bid to offer Iran incentives to discontinue its nuclear program.

The European Union has offered Iran a free-trade accord and economic aid in exchange for fully disclosing its nuclear intentions. The Bush administration has added to the pot, offering to enable Iran to join the World Trade Organization, if it reaches an agreement with the EU.

The Administration maintains, however, that Iran’s nuclear program is a covertly involved in manufacturing nuclear weapons.

Aside from the Iran issue, Rice expounded on the Bush administration’s ideological commitment to expand democracy in the Middle East as a means of combating terrorism.

“The best way to defeat the ideology that uses terror as a weapon is to spread freedom and democracy," she said, quoting Bush. "That is why President Bush has rejected 60 years of false choices in the Middle East."

Rice said the administration’s policy was starting to bear fruit, explaining that democratic movements have been gaining ground in Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, and Lebanon.

Rice said the aspiration for democracy “shapes the very heart of our approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict as well.”

Another conference speaker, former Minister of Diaspora and Jerusalem Affairs, Natan Sharansky, echoed Rice’s crusade for democracy, calling for American Jews to fight for democracy in Arab states.

Describing the United States as a country “founded on the belief that faith and freedom always go together” Sharansky said “you American Jews should not only support it, you should be those who lead the United States and Israel for freedom---for freedom for Egypt, freedom for Lebanon, freedom for Syria, and one day, freedom for Palestinians and that will be the best guarantee for our security.”

Contrary to the expectations of some Aipac activists, Sharansky made no mention of the Israeli government’s decision to expel Jews from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria, focusing instead on his new book and expressing his support for Bush’s police in the Middle East.

Sharansky recently resigned as minister in the Sharon government over opposition to the plan to expel 10,000 Jews from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria. Sharansky claimed the Israeli government wasn't doing enough to promote democracy and liberalization in the Palestinian Authority prior to making territorial concessions.

Despite her appearance before the pro-Israel lobby beleaguered by a spy scandal involving a Pentagon official, Secretary Rice carefully balanced her remarks on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. In a veiled attack against Jewish settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, Rice said that "Israel must take no actions that prejudice a final settlement or jeopardize the true viability of the Palestinian state, and Israel must help to create the conditions for the emergence of that democratic state."

Regarding the Palestinians, Rice added, "The Palestinian Authority must advance democratic reform and it must dismantle all terrorist networks in its society."