A senior State Department official took strong issue Wednesday with an International Atomic Energy Agency report concluding there is no evidence that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program. Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton says the IAEA assessment is "impossible to believe."
The Bush administration has long held that Iran's nominally-peaceful nuclear program conceals a secret weapons effort. And Mr. Bolton is making clear that assessment stands despite the IAEA report released Monday, which accused Iran of two decades of secret nuclear activity but said there was no evidence of a bomb project.
In remarks prepared for a Washington speech that officials said were approved at the highest level, Mr. Bolton said Iran has enriched uranium and re-processed plutonium in what he said "can only be" an attempt to build a capacity for nuclear weapons.
He said the IAEA report confirms that Iran has been engaged in such activities for many years and has "deliberately and repeatedly" lied to the U.N. agency about it.
Mr. Bolton reiterated the U.S. call on the IAEA governing board to hold Iran accountable when it meets next week in Vienna, and be prepared to declare it in non-compliance with its international obligations, action that could lead to U.N. sanctions.