U.S. Wary Of Iran's Nuclear Program, House Panel ToldBy Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service WASHINGTON, June 25, 2004 - Iran, one of three "Axis of Evil" nations identified by President Bush in 2002, "is still pursuing a strategic decision to have a nuclear weapons capability," a senior U.S. official told a House panel June 24.
In fact, the pursuit of nuclear arms "goes to a core element of Iranian national security policy," Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton said in testimony before the House International Relations Committee's Middle East and Central Asia subcommittee.
Iranian authorities say Iran just wants to process uranium to fuel power- generating nuclear reactors. However, Bolton accused Iran of secretly assembling the means to develop nuclear arms while deceiving and failing to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Iran already has chemical, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction and is developing longer-range ballistic missiles, he pointed out. The Iranian government, he added, also supports terrorist groups.
Since Congress passed the Iran Non-Proliferation Act of 2000, the United States has "imposed trade sanctions involving WMD-related transfers to Iran 37 times," Bolton noted.
The United States knows "that Iran has violated its NPT and IAEA commitments," Bolton pointed out, noting the Iranians have been covertly enriching uranium, secretly producing and separating plutonium, and have conducted other suspect activities without notifying the IAEA.
"The Iranian nuclear weapons program," Bolton asserted, "should be referred to the U.N. Security Council as a threat to international peace and security."
Along with Iran and North Korea, Iraq was a member of the President Bush's "evil" triad of dangerous nations. U.S. and coalition forces toppled Saddam Hussein's Iraq regime in April 2003.
Today, just as in the case of North Korea's nuclear weapons program, Bolton said the United States seeks "the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of Iran's nuclear weapons program and all of its programs of weapons of mass destruction."
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Peter Flory, who accompanied Bolton at the hearing, noted that Iranian procurement of nuclear weapons would "mark a dramatic change for the worse in the security landscape of the Persian Gulf and the broader Middle East."
A nuclear-armed Iran, Flory pointed out, would threaten American allies in the Persian Gulf-Middle East region as well as U.S. forces.
In the post-9/11 world, "nothing is unthinkable," Flory emphasized, including the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran exporting nuclear technology to other enemies of the United States. "Flory pointed out that Iran is supporting the Sunni Muslim extremist group Ansar al-Islam in Iraq.
American foreign policy on Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons "is unequivocal," Bolton said. "We cannot let Iran, a leading sponsor of international terrorism, acquire the most destructive weapons and the means to deliver them to Europe and most of Central Asia and the Middle East or beyond," he concluded.
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