July 15, 2015 / 11:16 PM / 4 years ago

Exclusive: Carter to travel to Saudi Arabia to discuss Iran, says Rice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will travel to Saudi Arabia as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to convince skeptical allies in the region about the benefits of the Iran nuclear deal, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said on Wednesday.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice speaks during an interview about the recent nuclear deal reached with Iran at the White House in Washington July 15, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Carter’s trip next week, which the White House already announced will include a stop in Israel, is one of several initiatives President Barack Obama and his staff are taking to sell the controversial deal at home and abroad.

Rice, in an interview with Reuters, gave a strong indication that some of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium would be shipped to Russia as a result of the historic deal, saying the United States would not be concerned by that.

“It can be shipped out to a third country, like Russia. That’s probably the most likely means ... Russia has its own fissile material, it’s handled it appropriately, we’re not concerned about that,” Rice said.

She dismissed concerns that Iran could hide nuclear material during the 24-day waiting period triggered under the pact if its signatories raise suspicions about military or other sites.

Rice said the deal obligated Iran to allow U.N. inspections of any suspicious sites if five of the eight signatories to the agreement demand it.

The signatories include the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union, and Iran.

The United States would look at ways to deepen its security cooperation with Israel, a strident opponent of the deal, she said. Carter is traveling to Israel in the coming days. His trip to Saudi Arabia has not been announced previously.

“We will ... be looking forward, if the Israelis are interested and willing, they haven’t said so yet, to discuss with them how we might further deepen and strengthen our security and intelligence cooperation,” Rice said.

“Secretary of Defense Ash Carter will be going out to Israel this weekend, and to Saudi Arabia, and he will be continuing our practical cooperation with both Israel and our partners in the Gulf.”

Rice said if Tehran complied with the terms of the deal and sanctions were lifted in “many months,” new oil flows from Iran would not hit the market all at once but were likely to reduce global oil prices at least for a period of time.

Asked about the U.S. ban on exports of domestic oil, Rice said that issue was unrelated to sanctions being lifted on Iran. Washington has banned most crude exports since the Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s sparked fears of shortages. Some lawmakers, including the head of the Senate Energy Committee, are pushing to lift the restrictions.

additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Lisa Lambert, and Megan Cassella; editing by Stuart Grudgings

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