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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

25 May 2005

Nuclear Treaty Violations Alarming, State Dept. Official Says

NPT conference discusses treaty compliance failures of Iran, North Korea

Washington -- As the review conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) enters its final week, U.S. officials have sought to focus attention on the crisis of compliance caused by actions by Iran and North Korea -- and to offer solutions.

Speaking to the conference May 23, Andrew Semmel, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, said "there is little hope of establishing an agreement to create a regional WMD (weapons of mass destruction) -free zone unless nations [of the Middle East] implement and uphold existing agreements to which they are parties" -- a reference specifically to Iran.

Semmel said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in a series of reports over more than two years, "has now confirmed that Iran pursued a covert nuclear program for nearly two decades" to enrich uranium, reprocess plutonium, and develop other technologies used in making nuclear weapons.  He called Iran's program "a serious cause for international alarm."

Semmel said Iran's insistence that its program is transparent and peaceful is "contradicted by the facts."

He said that despite Iran's commitment in the November 2004 Paris agreement with France, Germany and the United Kingdom (the EU-3) to suspend completely its uranium conversion operation, Iran announced shortly before the review conference began that it is considering resuming that work.

Furthermore, Semmel said, the IAEA board of governors confirmed as recently as March that "Iran continues to disregard the IAEA board's calls not to proceed with the construction of a heavy water research reactor at Arak -- a reactor well suited to production of plutonium that Iran does not need for peaceful purposes."

Semmel said the United States strongly believes the IAEA board should have reported Iran's violation of its nuclear safeguards obligations to the U.N. Security Council when it was first confirmed.

"The Security Council has the necessary international legal and political authority that may be required to bring this issue to a successful and peaceful diplomatic resolution," he continued.

In the meantime, Semmel said, the United States supports the EU-3's efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue diplomatically.  However, he added that if Iran were to end talks with the EU-3 and resume enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, then the United States would support the EU-3 in immediately reporting that action to the Security Council.

Switching directions from the Middle East to northeast Asia, Semmel said that the "Hermit Kingdom" of North Korea "has never met its obligations under the NPT and related IAEA safeguards" and has "repeatedly violated international nonproliferation obligations and announced its intention to withdraw from the NPT."

Sally Horn, a senior adviser in the State Department's Bureau of Verification and Compliance, also addressed North Korea's withdrawal from the NPT.

Horn said that an announcement of intent to withdraw from the NPT may well have resulted from being caught in breach of the treaty, and may signal the desire to acquire nuclear weapons openly afterward.

"North Korea has now made clear by its statements since January 2003 that this was precisely its intent," she said.

NPT members can avail themselves of benefits that nonmembers cannot, Horn said.  Therefore, a state that enjoys the benefits but uses them to advance a nuclear weapons program -- violating its obligations -- "should not be permitted to benefit in any way from its deceit" by withdrawing from the treaty.

"Withdrawal does not absolve a state of any violation of the treaty that was committed while still a party to the treaty," Horn said.  "Should a party withdraw from the treaty before it remedies any violations that it has committed, that state remains accountable for those violations even after it withdraws from the treaty."

Horn said all treaty members have the right to withdraw from the treaty.  But they also have a right to consider what withdrawal by a state that first violated its treaty obligations would do to individual and collective security.  NPT members, she said, "should make clear that consequences will flow from withdrawal from the treaty and, in doing so, deter such actions and further the goal of universal adherence."

Both Semmel's and Horn's complete statements may be viewed on the State Department’s Web page at:


The full text of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is also available on the State Department site.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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