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U.S. Warns Iran on Nuclear Issue

Times Staff Writer

The United States continued its drumbeat of criticism of Tehran’s efforts to obtain nuclear capability Thursday, saying it would not tolerate an Iran with nuclear bombs.

Separately, Washington warned North Korea that the U.S. would look at “other options” unless Pyongyang returned to six-party talks seeking a peaceful resolution of the communist regime’s nuclear activities.

In a statement at the quarterly meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s governing board, U.S. Ambassador Jackie Sanders said Iran could face military action unless it complied with demands to cease its quest for nuclear capability.

“The choice is now up to Iran to take the necessary steps to secure an acceptable, peaceful solution.... We will not accept a nuclear-weapons-capable Iran,” her statement said.

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Sanders accused Tehran of deceiving the IAEA about its nuclear ambitions. “It is evident that Iran has not come clean about its past or present nuclear activities,” she said in the statement.

Iran insists that its nuclear plants are solely for peaceful purposes, but inconsistencies in its answers to some questions from the nuclear agency and reluctance to address others have left serious doubts.

Over the last two years, the IAEA investigation of Iran’s attempts to build facilities related to the nuclear fuel cycle, including the conversion and enrichment of uranium, has raised disturbing questions about the country’s intentions.

In a statement to the board Thursday, IAEA Deputy Director General Pierre Goldschmidt said Iran recently revised its statements about when it had last processed plutonium, a substance that, like uranium, can be used to make nuclear bombs.

“Iran has also been caught, yet again, misleading the IAEA about its past plutonium separation experiments, claiming until confronted with scientific proof to the contrary that it stopped its undeclared reprocessing experiments in 1993,” Ambassador Sanders said.

IAEA tests of samples of Iran’s plutonium showed it had been experimented with more recently, and Tehran now says it worked with plutonium for an additional five years, until 1998.

In Iran’s response to Goldschmidt’s presentation, its ambassador to the IAEA, Mohammed Mehdi Akhondzadeh, said the country had bent over backward to meet the demands of agency officials.

“We wish to stress that Iran has already been extremely forthcoming on providing access and information to locations unrelated to the nuclear activities which were alleged through scanty reports in the media,” he said.

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Furthermore, Iran voluntarily has suspended all activities related to the nuclear fuel cycle, Akhondzadeh said.

The language in the U.S. assessment was no more scathing than previous statements, perhaps because Iran is in active negotiations with Britain, France and Germany on the terms of a moratorium on the development of its uranium enrichment capability.

Moreover, Iran holds its presidential election today, and Western diplomats said they were reluctant to be too vocal in their criticism until they could assess the new government’s attitude toward nuclear development.

Despite the United States’ tough talk aimed at Iran and North Korea, its options are limited if it wants the support of other countries.

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Washington could ask the United Nations Security Council to take action, but council authorization of military action would be highly unlikely, and limited economic sanctions could backfire, possibly garnering even more support for the current governments’ nuclear policies.


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