MADRID – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted Friday that Vice President Cheney fully supports a diplomatic course in the dispute with Iran over its nuclear program, denying claims of divisions among President Bush’s foreign policy advisers.
“The president of the United States has made very clear what our policy is. That policy is supported by all of the members of his Cabinet – and by the vice president of the United States,” Rice said at a news conference here after talks with Spanish officials. “The president has made clear that we are on a course that is a diplomatic course, but it is a diplomatic course backed up by disincentives for Iran to continue its activities.”
Rice was responding to remarks by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. ElBaradei had told BBC radio that the world risked a war in Iran because of “new crazies who say, ‘Let’s go and bomb Iran.’ “
Asked who the “new crazies” were, ElBaradei replied, “Those who have extreme views and say the only solution is to impose your will by force.”
Cheney, a major advocate of war with Iraq, is regarded as a hawk on Iran and recently made a tough speech denouncing the Islamic republic from the deck of an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.
As secretary of state, Rice has had much more freedom in setting the diplomatic course than her predecessor, Colin Powell. But Iran has not responded positively to an offer she made a year ago to join negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program, leading some conservatives to argue that her approach has only let Iran gain nuclear expertise.
“I wake every morning and see 100 Iraqis, innocent civilians, are dying,” said ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner. “I have no brief other than to make sure we don’t go into another war or that we go crazy into killing each other. You do not want to give additional argument to new crazies who say, ‘Let’s go and bomb Iran.’ “
His remarks constituted his strongest warning to date against a war and come after he angered administration officials by saying that Iran had already progressed so far in developing a nuclear capability that international demands should be softened.
Rice said she had “no idea” whom the IAEA chief was talking about, but she made her statement after being pressed by a reporter on whether Cheney could have been included. Cheney, she said, agreed with the policy she has carried out the past year.