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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

22 August 2006

U.S. Says Iran's Response on Uranium Program Under U.N. Review

Iran apparently rejects U.N. demand to halt uranium enrichment

Washington – Iran appears to have formally rejected the U.N. Security Council’s call for an immediate suspension of its uranium enrichment program, but U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said the council would study Tehran’s response before moving ahead with sanctions.

“We will obviously study the Iranian response carefully, but we are also prepared, if it does not meet the terms set by the Perm 5 foreign ministers [China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States], to proceed here in the Security Council, as the ministers have agreed, with economic sanctions,” Bolton told reporters in New York August 22.  “If, on the other hand, the Iranians have chosen the path of cooperation, as we've said repeatedly, then a different relationship with the United States and the rest of the world is now possible.”

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, met in Tehran August 22 with the ambassadors of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, which represents U.S. interests in Tehran, to deliver Iran’s response to a proposed package of incentives for abandoning its nuclear enrichment activities.  According to news reports, Iran is refusing to suspend its nuclear activities but proposes further discussions with the interested parties.

The five permanent Security Council members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – along with Germany (the P5+1) offered Tehran a package of incentives and disincentives in June to persuade it to abandon its nuclear ambitions.   According to U.S. officials, the incentives involved economic, political and technological benefits, including assistance in developing a civilian nuclear power program free of any weapons proliferation risk.  The primary disincentive was the threat of economic and/or political sanctions. (See related article.)

During an August 21 press conference in Washington, President Bush called for decisive action from the Security Council if Iran rejected the P5+1 package.

“In order for the U.N. to be effective, there must be consequences if people thumb their nose at the United Nations Security Council, and we will work with people in the Security Council to achieve that objective,” he said.

Bush reaffirmed his commitment to seeking a diplomatic solution to the matter.  “I certainly want to solve this problem diplomatically, and I believe the best chance to do so is for there to be more than one voice speaking clearly to the Iranians,” he said.  “And I was pleased that we got a resolution, that there was … a group of nations willing to come together to send a message to the Iranians; nations as diverse as China and Russia, plus the EU-3, and the United States.”

In a November 2004 agreement with France, Germany and the United Kingdom (the EU-3), Iran pledged to suspend its uranium enrichment activities.  In August 2005, however, Tehran abandoned its pledge and resumed uranium conversion at its Isfahan facility.  Despite demands from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it suspend all nuclear reprocessing activities, Iran resumed full-scale nuclear research and development at its Natanz facility in January 2006.

Tehran insists that its nuclear activities are aimed at developing peaceful civilian nuclear energy capabilities.  While IAEA inspectors have been unable to determine the precise nature of Iran’s nuclear program, there is widespread concern in the international community that the uranium conversion and enrichment capabilities Iran is developing could be used to produced weapons-grade fissile material.

The IAEA referred the matter to the U.N. Security Council in February, and the council issued a presidential statement demanding that Iran comply with the IAEA requests in March.  (See related article.)

When Iran failed to comply, the P5+1 drafted the proposed package of incentives and extended the threat of sanctions should Iran continue to defy the council’s demands.  When Iran failed to respond to the package by July 12, the five permanent council members set August 31 as the date for the council to return to the matter and consider moving ahead with sanctions. (See related article.)

For additional information, see Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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