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US Again Accuses Iran of Seeking Nuclear Weapons - 2004-02-14


The United States Friday again accused Iran of concealing its nuclear activities and of having continued nuclear weapons ambitions. But the State Department said the Bush administration is not yet prepared to try to have the matter referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

The latest U.S. comments were prompted by revelations that U.N. inspectors had discovered previously-undisclosed blueprints in Iran, possibly provided secretly by Pakistan, for an advanced type uranium centrifuge used for refining weapons-grade material.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said disclosure by International Atomic Energy Agency officials reinforced the U.S. view that Iran has continuing nuclear weapons ambitions, despite denials and promises to European officials and the U.N. agency last October that it would cease uranium-enrichment and fully disclose its nuclear activities.

"We do not believe that Iran has made a strategic decision to abandon its efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capability," he said. "Furthermore, we don't believe that Iran has been fully transparent in its October declaration to the International Atomic Energy Agency despite the (IAEA) board of governors having determined it essential that the declaration reflect a correct, complete and final picture of Iran's past and present program."

Mr. Boucher said the Bush administration is looking forward to a report soon on the IAEA's latest findings in Iran from agency director-general Mohamed ElBaradei.

He said the 35-nation IAEA governing board, of which the United States is a member, will convene again for a three-day session in Vienna March 8 and at that time can judge if Iran is meeting its nuclear commitments.

The board could refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council, which could then impose economic sanctions against that country.

However spokesman Boucher said the United States has not yet made a decision to seek such a referral.

He noted the board meeting is still several weeks away and that what is important "at this stage in the process" is to keep the emphasis on having Iran meet its commitments.

A senior diplomat told reporters here the Bush administration was not committing to an immediate referral so that Western European officials and others with influence in Tehran can "redouble" efforts to get Iran to comply.

He said the issue is not simply a referral, but what would be most effective in getting the Iranians to change their behavior.

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