By Julian Pecquet - 03/05/13 02:37 PM EST
The Obama administration is determined to stop Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon and will not let Tehran drag out negotiations indefinitely, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.
“Iran will not run any clock on this,” Kerry told NBC's Andrea Mitchell. “There is no negotiation for the sake of it, and there will not be a negotiation that turns into an eternal delay.
“The clock is ticking and the president has made that clear. The president's policy is that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon,” he said. “We are working closer with Israel and other allies than has ever taken place in terms of that military and intelligence cooperation.”
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again warned that Iran is not interested in compromise and is moving ahead on developing nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.
“Iran has made it clear that it will continue to defy the will of the international community,” Netanyahu told the annual policy conference of the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) via satellite. “Time after time, the world powers have tabled diplomatic proposals to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue peacefully. But diplomacy has not worked.”
Vice President Biden used the conference to justify the continued six-party talks and to declare that the administration is “not bluffing” with its threat of military action to stop Iran.
“Let me make clear what that commitment is: It is to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, period. End of discussion. Not contain. Prevent,” Biden told the AIPAC conference.
Kerry also defended the administration's decision not to arm the rebels in Syria despite 70,000 deaths over the past two years. Asked if the administration was worried about weapons falling in the hands of Islamists, Kerry said “that's not the issue.”
“The president has committed the United States of America on behalf of the good values of Americans, to be the largest humanitarian support of any countries, to this question of refugees. I think America can be very proud of that,” he said.
Kerry added that the administration is working more closely than ever with countries in the region that are arming the rebels, who seek the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad, following a meeting of foreign ministers and the opposition in Rome last week.
“Others are providing lethal aid and I, I think what we achieved in Rome, was to raise the focus and the energy of all of these countries who came together, each of whom are contributing in different ways,” he said. “We had the meeting in Rome — it came about because of the president's leadership and insistence in trying to unify and send a sterner message. I think now there is a much more coordinated effort for those who are arming, that's taking place.”
Kerry also took a dig at basketball star Dennis Rodman, who returned from a private trip to North Korea over the weekend with high praise for dictator Kim Jong Un and a recommendation that Obama give the reclusive leader a call.
“You know what?” Kerry said. “Dennis Rodman was a great basketball player, and as a diplomat, he was a great basketball player. And that's where we'll leave it.”
Kerry returns to Washington on Wednesday after visiting nine countries over 10 days as part of his inaugural trip as secretary of State.