Yesterday, in her first appearance as United Nations Ambassador SusanRice said that the Iranians would have to stop the enrichment of uranium before we began talks with them. She was repeating the Bush Administration precondition that Obama famously disputed during the campaign–his position was there should be no preconditions on talks with the Iranians. Later, Robert Gibbs was asked about this at his press briefing and here’s what he said:
I think what Ambassador Rice outlined today was simply to restate the position that I think many of you heard the president outline throughout the campaign for the past two years: that this administration is going to use all elements of our national power to address the concerns that we have with Iran.
There are no specific initiatives that we’re announcing either at the U.N. or here today, and when we have anything more specific to announce, that then we’ll do so. [italics mine]
To which one can only say: huh? My guess is that Rice made a rookie mistake. But I’ll be making some inquiries to see if Obama has actually changed his mind about on this issue, which I doubt.
Update: Still confused about this. In this AP account, it is the reporter who says flatly that Iran has to give up uranium enrichment before negotiations begin. Rice is a bit more circumspect:
But U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice warned that Iran must meet U.N. Security Council demands to suspend uranium enrichment before any talks on its nuclear program.
“The dialogue and diplomacy must go hand in hand with a very firm message from the United States and the international community that Iran needs to meet its obligations as defined by the Security Council. And its continuing refusal to do so will only cause pressure to increase,” she told reporters during a brief question-and-answer session.
I’m not quite sure what that means–it may have just been a misinterpretarion on the AP reporter’s part–but I’ll get an answer for you soon.