Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United Nations Security Council may ultimately have to deal with questions surrounding Iran's nuclear program. Mr. Powell spoke after Iran once again rejected international demands to abandon its uranium enrichment program.
Iran's rebuff of a European demand to suspend nuclear activities came on the eve of a planned meeting by the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors to consider Iran's failure to fully declare its nuclear activities.
Speaking on the ABC television program, This Week, Mr. Powell said the international community must insist that Iran declare its full nuclear intent.
"At what point do we say to the Iranians that this [nuclear issue] is now a matter for the entire United Nations Security Council to deal with?" he asked. "The Iranians are under enormous pressure, and every day or so they say, 'It [the nuclear program] is only peaceful, and we are willing to give assurances.' We [the United States] are the ones who called attention to this problem and said that the international community has to do something about it."
Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, to generate energy to meet the demands of an expanding population, and that its program is permissible under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But the IAEA, the United States and European nations have been dissatisfied with Iran's assurances to date, as well as its compliance with previous agreements. Speaking on CNN's Late Edition program, a key U.S. lawmaker, Florida Senator Bob Graham, said the international community cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran, which he argued would set off an arms race throughout the region.
"To have a country in the middle of the Middle East with nuclear capacity is almost assuredly going to cause nervousness among other countries and a desire by them to develop nuclear weapons," he said.
Asked if the United States would consider a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said President Bush is not ruling out any possible courses of action. But, also speaking on CNN's Late Edition, she stressed that the administration wants to resolve the issue peacefully.
"We believe that this is something that is best resolved by diplomatic means, and that can be resolved by diplomatic means. The world is united in saying to the Iranians that it is not acceptable for them, under cover of a civilian nuclear program, to engage in activities that might allow them to build a military program," she added.
U.S. diplomats have been working with their counterparts from Britain, France and Germany to reach a common position on whether, as the United States has maintained, an IAEA deadline for Iranian disclosures should stipulate U.N. Security Council involvement, in the event of non-compliance.