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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

25 August 2006

U.S. Envoy Calls for Iranian Cooperation on Nuclear Program

Ambassador Schulte participates in "Question & Answer" session in Farsi

Washington -- The United States wants Iran to change course on its nuclear program from “defiance and non-cooperation” to “cooperation and negotiation” to benefit international security and the Iranian people, says the chief U.S. representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“Our goal is a diplomatic solution.  We are not looking for war.  But we are concerned that the pursuit of nuclear weapons by Iran's leadership threatens the security and stability of the Middle East,” said Ambassador Gregory Schulte, the U.S. permanent representative to the IAEA and the U.N. Mission in Vienna, Austria.

His remarks are part of an ongoing U.S. Department of State online “Question and Answer” session in Farsi that began on August 14 and is scheduled to run through September 15. Most questions from Iranians Schulte answered concerned their country’s nuclear program and the incentive package offered by the international community to halt it.

In June, the five permanent Security Council members -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- along with Germany (the P5+1) offered Iran a package of incentives and penalties to persuade it to abandon its controversial uranium enrichment program, which Iran claims is strictly for peaceful use.

“If Iran's leadership is truly interested in nuclear power for peaceful purposes, they should suspend the activities of international concern and take advantage of the historic offer from Europe, Russia, China, and the United States,” said Schulte.

According to U.S. officials, the offer incorporates economic, political and technological benefits, including assistance in developing a civilian nuclear power program free of any weapons proliferation risk.  The primary disincentive is the threat of economic and/or political sanctions. (See related article.)

Iran formally replied to the package of incentives on August 22. In an August 23 statement, acting State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said the Bush administration is reviewing the response, but Iran’s proposal “falls short” of the conditions set by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1696. (See related article.)

In Resolution 1696, the Security Council “made clear the conditions Iran must meet regarding its nuclear program,” Gallegos said.

According to Resolution 1696, Iran has until August 31 to suspend enrichment in exchange for incentives, or it risks possible sanctions. (See related article.)

“Currently the leadership has chosen a course of defiance and non-cooperation.  This course will only lead Iran into isolation and (non-military) sanction.  We want the leadership to choose a different course, a course of cooperation and negotiation,” said Schulte.

Schulte called on Iran’s leaders to uphold their obligations to cooperate with the IAEA in accordance with the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). By voluntarily signing the NPT, Iran agreed not to develop or acquire nuclear weapons. 

While Iranian leaders insist that the sole purpose of their uranium enrichment program is the development of a peaceful civilian nuclear energy capability, there is widespread international concern that the program could easily be turned to weapons production.  This would violate Iran’s commitment under the NPT, and Schulte fears it could also spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. 

“Imagine the reaction of Iran's neighbors, and the prospect of a nuclear arms race in a region already rife with tension and violence,” said Schulte.

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 resumed uranium conversion at its Isfahan facility.  (See related article.)

Despite demands from the IAEA that it suspend all nuclear reprocessing activities, Iran resumed full-scale nuclear research and development at its Natanz facility in January 2006.

Schulte said “the path remains open to serious negotiations” if Iran suspends its nuclear program -- “particularly those at Natanz, a facility once hidden from the world and the Iranian people.”

“The pursuit of nuclear weapons won't give Iran prestige or influence, but leave it isolated, like North Korea.  The leaders in Tehran can best ensure Iran's security and the long-term safety of the Iranian people, not by building nuclear bombs, but by meeting their international commitments,” said Schulte.

More information on Ambassador Schulte’s chat can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s Persian Web site.

The full text of Gonzalo Gallegos’ statement on Iran’s nuclear program is available on the State Department Web site.

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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