Rice warns Syria and Iran over Lebanon protests
Rice makes it clear that US, international community couldn't ever tolerate "reassertion of Syrian authority in Lebanon." She adds that Syria and Iran must not think that Lebanon's future is up for negotiation. On Iran she says she is optimistic about UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on nuclear-aspiring state
In an exclusive interview with AFP, Rice rejected mounting calls to deal directly with Damascus and Tehran as part of efforts to end the crisis in Iraq and said the two states should have no doubts about Washington's commitment to the embattled government of Lebanon.
"In no way is the US going to get into a situation where it is even a conceivable notion on the part of Syria or Iran that the future of Lebanon would somehow be compromised for other interests of the US," she said.
"I want to make it very clear that the future of Lebanon is not an issue for negotiation with anybody," she said.
Massive street protests organized by the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Shiite movement Hizbullah have been seeking to topple the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora for the past week.
The protracted deadlock has paralyzed the Western-backed government as opposition Shiite and Christian protesters have clogged the capital in an escalating campaign to force a new national unity administration.
"It's just extremely important that we be very clear: we understand who Lebanon's enemies are and those that are trying to bring down the Siniora government," Rice said.
"There is no way that the United States or the international community could ever countenance a reassertion of Syrian authority in Lebanon," she said.
'Optimistic' about resolution against Iran
Rice said she was "optimistic" the resolution aimed at convincing Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment program, would pass soon, though she stopped short of predicting a final vote before the end of the year.
"It has to be voted soon. I think this has gone on long enough," she said.
The six major powers dealing with the issue -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany, have been negotiating for weeks over the terms of a sanctions resolution. But agreement proved elusive as Russia and China objected to an earlier European draft as too harsh, while Washington felt it did not go far enough.
But Rice said on Monday that she was satisfied with the latest version, notably because it will be voted under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which makes the measures mandatory for all UN members.
"It establishes Chapter 7, which to my mind is the most important element here," she said.
"It would make very clear to the Iranians that they are not going to be able to pursue this program and remain integrated into the international system and I would hope would give them pause so they might consider coming back to negotiations," she said.