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US Backs European Resolution on Iran's Nuclear Program - 2004-06-17

The United States will support a European resolution in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) calling for a step-up of the U.N. agency's investigation of Iran's nuclear program. U.S. officials again Thursday accused Iran of trying to conceal nuclear activities from the IAEA.

The resolution, presented jointly by Britain, France and Germany, doesn't include the firm cut-off date for the investigation of Iran sought by the Bush administration.

However, it does deplore Iran's poor record of cooperation with the IAEA probe and the State Department made clear the measure will get U.S. support when it comes up for a vote by the IAEA governing board, expected Friday.

U.S. officials have long believed that Iran, which says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, has been concealing an ambitious effort to develop nuclear weapons.

But the Bush administration has refrained from trying to get the IAEA to refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions against Iran as long as the Vienna-based agency continues to have some success in extracting information on Iranian nuclear activities.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the European resolution calls on Iran to "stop making excuses" and to fully disclose its nuclear activities, and that the United States, at least for the time being, will not seek a Security Council referral.

"We have not been seeking referral at this moment to the Security Council," he said. "We have been pressing for a resolution that's strong, that asks Iran to meet its own commitments, that asks Iran to disclose what it has promised to disclose, that asks Iran to meet the requirements that have been put forward by the membership of the IAEA and the board of governors of the IAEA and that's what the resolution does."

The IAEA admitted Thursday that it had made a mistake in saying that Iran has failed to report the import of magnets for uranium-enriching centrifuges.

But at his briefing here, Mr. Boucher said Iranian spokesman continued to deny the acquisition of the magnets for months after the verbal acknowledgement to IAEA inspectors by an Iranian official last January and said that fits in a continuing pattern of deception by the Tehran government.

In that regard, the spokesman said the United States is seriously concerned about a report Wednesday by the U.S. television network ABC that Iran has bulldozed a complex of buildings in a Tehran neighborhood that had been identified as a possible weapons site.

He said Iran has a long record of hiding clandestine nuclear activities, including trying to remove equipment and sanitize buildings.

"It's deplorable but not surprising that Iran's deception has gone to the extent of bulldozing entire sites to prevent the IAEA from discovering evidence of its nuclear weapons program," he added. "I can't give you any independent information, but commercial satellite photography shows the complete dismantling and the raising of a facility at Lavizan Shiyan. That's a site that was previously disclosed as a possible Iranian weapons of mass destruction-related site."

ABC News said the IAEA recently received information about concealment activity at the site, which it said included the removal of topsoil from the area.

The now-dismantled complex was first identified as a likely weapons site last year by the Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The group was later added to a U.S. list of terrorist organizations, though officials say it has a record of providing credible information about Iranian weapons efforts.