Envoy Denies Threat to Iran
John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Monday that Iran’s leaders could stay in power and improve their ties with Washington if they ended their pursuit of nuclear arms.
He later insisted that he had not meant to threaten Tehran with regime change if its leaders failed to do so.
Bolton, addressing a meeting of B’nai B’rith International, a Jewish humanitarian organization, cited Washington’s move last week to normalize relations with Libya after that country gave up its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and said Iran’s leaders faced a similar choice.
“This is a sign to the rulers in Tehran that if they give up their long-standing support for terrorism and they give up their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, that their regime can stay in place and that they can have a different relationship with the United States and the rest of the world,” he said.
Asked about those comments afterward, Bolton said he did not mean to imply that the U.S. would seek a change in the Iranian leadership if Tehran refused to suspend its enrichment of uranium, as the U.N. Security Council has demanded.
“What it says is, if you do what Libya did, the same thing will happen,” he said. “The ‘regime stay’ strategy is following the Libyan example.”
It was “flatly wrong,” Bolton said, to argue that Western powers wanted the Security Council to adopt a resolution that was legally binding on Iran “as an excuse to use force for regime change or anything else.”
Iran says it wants only to produce energy for civilian use, but Western powers argue that it is using a civilian nuclear program as a cover for producing the highly enriched uranium needed for atomic bombs.
Iran’s nuclear program also was the subject of talks Monday between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing.
Merkel said afterward that the two were united in their opposition to Iran possessing nuclear weapons and their determination that the dispute be settled diplomatically.
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