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US Diplomat: Iranian Nuclear Issue 'Not Closed'


The United States Wednesday rejected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's assertion that the issue of his country's nuclear program is closed because of Tehran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns says work continues on a U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran. VOA's David Gollust reports from our U.N. bureau.

The State Department's policy point-man on the nuclear issue says Iranian President Ahmadinejad is "badly mistaken" if he thinks his government's information-sharing arrangement with the IAEA has resolved international concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions.

Iran last month agreed with the IAEA to answer long-standing questions the U.N. agency has had about its nuclear program by the end of the year.

Delivering Iran's policy speech in the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, the Iranian president said that accord means the political dispute over the Iranian program is closed and has become a routine matter within the U.N. agency.

The U.S. rejoinder came from Under-Secretary Burns as he prepared for a meeting on the nuclear issue with fellow political directors from the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany.

Burns told reporters the IAEA's accord with Iran has value in that it could yield information about Iran's past nuclear activity. But he said it does nothing to resolve concern about what is happening there now, and about Iran's defiance of three Security Council resolutions demanding that it cease uranium-enrichment:

"I'm sorry to tell the president, President Ahmadinejad, that the case is not closed," he said. "There are three Security Council resolutions on the books against his country - resolution 1696 of July 31 2006, resolution 1737 of December 23 2006, and resolution 1747 of March 24, 2007. And so the Iranian president is badly mistaken if he thinks the international community is going to forget about the fact that this country is continuing, against the will of the United Nations Security Council, its nuclear research programs at Natanz for enrichment and reprocessing."

In his U.N. speech, Mr. Ahmadinejad reiterated Tehran's long-standing position that Iran's nuclear activities are entirely peaceful and a national right of Iran as a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

U.S. officials however say they believe Iran's nuclear program has a secret weapons component and that Iran has violated NPT and IAEA obligations by concealing nuclear activities for nearly two decades.

Burns said he and his political director colleagues from the P-Five Plus One grouping would meet twice in two days to discuss a new sanctions resolution against Iran in advance of a ministerial-level session Friday hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China are understood to be resisting a new sanctions measure and Burns cautioned against expectation of an agreement Friday. But he said new U.N. sanctions will eventually be approved:

"I wouldn't anticipate concluding negotiation on the sanctions resolution," he added. "What's happening now is that the political directors of the six countries are looking at the elements. And when we conclude those discussions, then of course the discussion will have to shift to the U.N., to the ambassadors and the Security Council. There are 15 of them. So we're not going to have a resolution this week. It's going to take some time. But I do believe we'll get there."

Burns said Iranian isolation on the nuclear issue is increasing because of sanctions by European economic powers outside the U.N. framework, and business decisions by international banks and corporations to curb investment in Iran.