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The U.S. announced plans for new military assistance agreements with several countries in the Middle East, including Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the plans are part of a long tradition of U.S. commitment to the region. In addition, she says, "This effort will help bolster forces of moderation, and support a broader strategy to counter the negative influences of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran."
Ms. Rice called Iran the "most important single-country strategic challenge to the U.S. and to the kind of Middle East that we want to see," which is one "moving toward greater freedom, toward, therefore, true stability." Iran's policies, she said, directly undermine that vision, whether it's Iran's "support for terrorism that is a threat to the democratic forces in Lebanon, support for the most radical forces in the Palestinian territories. . .support for Shia militias and for the transfer of technologies that are endangering the lives of our soldiers and endangering a free Iraq." If, says Ms. Rice, "you add to that . . . .the Iranian [government's] desire to acquire the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon, it's a very serious set of challenges."
Ms. Rice says the U.S. and its allies are responding in a variety of ways:
"One is to make sure that when we see Iranian activities in Iraq, we confront them when those activities are harmful to our interests and to our people. We are reasserting, of course, our firm commitment to this region. But it's not against anyone; it's for stability of the region."
Another way the U.S. and other countries are working to counter Iran's negative policies is through the United Nations. The five permanent members of the U-N Security Council along with Germany have offered Tehran assistance on its civilian nuclear program, as well as in transportation, medicine, and agriculture. The Security Council will lift sanctions if Iran first suspends uranium enrichment and reprocessing and complies with its Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty obligations.
Secretary of State Rice says the U.S. has no disagreement with the Iranian people:
"They deserve to live in a better society than they do, one that's freer, and they certainly deserve to live in a society that can answer their aspirations."
"But as long as Iran's activities are as destabilizing as they are," says Secretary of State Rice, "we have to bring pressure on that regime to change its policies."