The United States will not be satisfied with containing Iran but will seek to stop it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, Senator John Kerry, the secretary of state designate, pledged Thursday.
“I repeat here today: our policy is not containment. It is prevention and the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance,” he told lawmakers at a Senate hearing to confirm him as the next top US diplomat.
Directing an appeal at Iranian leaders, Kerry urged Tehran to prove that its nuclear program is solely for domestic energy purposes.
“If their program is peaceful, they can prove it, and that’s what we’re seeking,” he said.
Kerry stressed that under his leadership the State Department would remain committed to its dual-track policy towards Iran, which includes talks and tough global sanctions now beginning to bite deep into the Iranian economy.
But he side-stepped a question on whether he would be open to allowing the Islamic Republic to pursue a limited enrichment of uranium, saying it would be “inappropriate” to negotiate the details of any accord in the committee.
The West has charged that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, but Iranian leaders have denied the allegations, saying their uranium enrichment is purely part of a domestic energy program.
Kerry insisted Iran must fully comply with international demands to halt uranium enrichment, adding that alongside international negotiations under the auspices of the so-called P5+1 group, Washington was open to bilateral talks.
“I think everybody’s very hopeful that we can make some progress on the diplomatic front now,” Kerry told the hearing, called to confirm his nomination to take over from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“I’d say this to the Iranians. I hope they listen. They have continually professed the peacefulness of their program. It is not hard to prove a peaceful program,” he stressed.
“Other nations have done that and do it every day. And it takes intrusive inspections. It takes living up to publicly arrived-at standards.”
Israel, Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East, has been pressing U.S. President Barack Obama to set a red line for Iran on the nuclear issue.
After Tuesday’s elections, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to build a new coalition. Those negotiations are being closely watched for indicators on how Israel’s new government will handle pressing diplomatic and foreign policy issues, such as Iran.