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US Official Calls Alleged Iranian Nuclear Ambitions a Growing Threat - 2004-09-30

A senior U.S. official says the United States sees Iran, with its pursuit of nuclear technology, as a growing threat to U.S. troops in Iraq, as well as to its neighbors in the Middle East. The State Department official also denounced what he says is Iranian involvement in neighboring Iraq.

In an interview with VOA Thursday, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton said Iran's alleged bid to make nuclear weapons is a threat to U.S. troops and allies.

"We see the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons as being particularly dangerous for the United States forces in the region, and for our friends and allies in the Middle East and in Eastern Europe," he said. "As Iran develops ballistic missile capabilities, and pursues nuclear weapons, we see that threat as growing."

Iran has repeatedly denied it is pursuing nuclear weapons, and says it is only seeking to produce electricity from nuclear power. The United States wants to bring the matter before the U.N. Security Council.

In New York Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi told journalists Iran would never give up peaceful nuclear technology, but again denied that Iran wants to produce nuclear weapons. He added, however, that Iran finds concerns about its nuclear program understandable, and said Iran is willing to resume talks with European nations in a bid to calm fears.

The nuclear issue is one of several major impediments to any improvement in the frigid relationship between Washington and Tehran. Mr. Kharazzi acknowledged that U.S.-Iranian relations are at a low point.

U.S. officials have also accused Iran of sending arms and funds to Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shi'ite Muslim cleric who is waging an insurgency against U.S. forces and the Iraqi interim government. Mr. Bolton said Iran has been what he termed unhelpful in Iraq.

"I don't think there's any question that there's Iranian involvement in Iraq that's not helpful, and we've made that clear to them," he said. "British and other coalition partners have made that clear to them. We're determined to have free and fair elections in Iraq in January, and it's not helpful to that process to have anyone, inside or outside, try to disrupt the progress Iraq is making toward a democratic solution."

Iranian Foreign Minister Kharazzi denied any meddling in Iraq. He said Iran agrees that elections in Iraq must be held on time, even if some cities must be temporarily excluded because of poor security.

Mr. Bolton said efforts by insurgents to disrupt the electoral timetable in Iraq is evidence that they are, as he put it, getting desperate.