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US Criticizes Iran's Nuclear Aims - 2004-06-19


The United States says Iran's threat to restart its uranium enrichment program clearly shows the country has military aims behind its nuclear program. Iran has said it might resume uranium enrichment following Friday's rebuke from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The U.S. envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Kenneth Brill, says if Tehran reneges on its earlier pledge to suspend uranium enrichment, it will show that Iran is determined to become a nuclear power in the region.

"If Iran were to follow up on its many repeated threats to abrogate its commitments to the Europeans to suspend its enrichment work, it would be another demonstration of their true colors, that they are determined to have an enrichment program and one that goes well beyond the needs for a power program, and we think that underscores their desire to pursue military purposes for their nuclear program," he said.

The American diplomat was responding to Tehran's declaration that it will reconsider its suspension of some nuclear enrichment activities in the coming days. Iran says it has the right under international treaties to carry out such activities, even though it suspended the program last year as part of a deal with several European countries.

On Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency adopted a tough resolution censuring Iran for covering up its nuclear activities. The agency called on Tehran to abandon key parts of the atomic program.

The United States, Canada and other countries represented on the IAEA's board of directors have in the past pushed for even tougher resolutions, saying Iran should be brought before the U.N. Security Council where it could face sanctions.

Gary Samore, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and a former U.S. official, says if Iran emerged one day as a nuclear weapons state it would have dire consequences for the Middle East.

"If Iran does acquire nuclear weapons I think it would certainly put pressure on other countries in the region to pursue their own nuclear weapons programs," Mr. Samore. "As it is now, many of the Arab countries feel that it's unfair that Israel has a nuclear program and if the Arab countries found themselves sandwiched between Israel on one hand and Iran on the other, both seen as armed with nuclear weapons then it would probably increase pressure on Arab countries to pursue their own nuclear option and over some period of time that could result in a situation where you have more nuclear armed states in the Middle East which is likely to be destabilizing given the number of regional conflicts and instabilities in the region."

International inspectors have found that, for more than two decades, Iran had engaged in secret nuclear activity, but Tehran maintains its nuclear program is geared to the peaceful use of atomic energy.

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