Photo: Reuters
Rice: Trying to snuff out Iran nuke program
Photo: Reuters
Rice to Arab FMs: Sever economic ties with Iran
US secretary of state meets with Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, expected to ask them to block their nations’ banks from supporting Iran’s nuclear program

WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is slated to meet with Arab foreign ministers during a visit to Egypt Wednesday. Rice is expected to demand the ministers instruct their nations’ banks cut off all ties with bodies contributing to Iran’s nuclear program.


The meeting in Cairo comes against the backdrop of Rice’s attempts to garner support for the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran. Over the past few months, the US has managed to halt business with Iran at three main Swiss banks. The New York Sun reported that the US administration even recruited London bank HSBC to the effort, and HSBC also decided to sever ties with Tehran.


The US Treasury Depratment announced its decision last month to boycott a large Iranian state-owned bank, Bank Saderat, which it contends is used by Iran to transfer money to terrorist groups, including Hizbullah.


Following suit, three Japanese banks also severed ties with Iran. The implications of the boycotts were felt almost immediately, and Tehran canceled a USD 2 billion deal on Monday for the planned Japanese development of Iran's Azadegan oil field.


Parallel to America’s processes among the industrialized nations, Rice was also working on Arab nations to increase economic pressures on Iran. The White House viewed United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Ziyad al-Nahyan’s participation in the Cairo summit as extremely important, considering Dubai’s position as the “Switzerland of the Arab world.” In addition, many senior leaders of the Iranian regime have private bank accounts in Dubai’s banks.


Pressing for sanctions

Rice expressed dissatisfaction Tuesday night over the failed efforts vis a vis Iran and promised that soon the five members of the Security Council, along with Germany, would consult on the matter.


If Iran fails to acquiesce to international demands, “Then the only choice for the international community is to live up to the terms of resolution 1696 ... and that means to bring sanctions,” Rice stated.


Undersecretary for Political Affairs Nick Burns said in Washin
gton that Russia and China had agreed that Iran needs to deliver an unequivocal answer by the end of the week on the package of benefits the West offered in return for suspending uranium enrichment.


At the end of her visit to Cairo, Ricewill head to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, where she will meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Fatah leaders. Her visit here will focus on the violent crisis among Palestinian factions in the PA and its effect on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


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