01 August 2003
Powell: World Concern over Iran's Nuclear Program Rising
Says Iranian nuclear program destabilizing the region
Secretary of State Colin Powell says recent revelations about Iran's nuclear activities have provoked rising concerns in the international community.
"The Iranians, in recent months, have been found to be doing a number of things that we didn't know they were doing before that have now been brought to the attention of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]," he said in an interview with U.S. regional news syndicates August 1.
The secretary called upon Iran to sign an additional protocol "as a first step" to allow IAEA experts to conduct more rigorous visits to nuclear sites at short notice.
"We want to see whether or not Iran is so committed to creating an indigenous fuel cycle that they don't need outside help after a while," Powell said. "And we believe that the international community is more and more coming to the conclusion that we have to do everything possible to persuade the Iranians one way or another that this is not the direction in which they should be moving."
Powell stressed that seeking nuclear weapons will not "do much" for the Iranian people, and that such activities are "destabilizing to the region."
Following is an excerpt about Iran's nuclear program from Powell's interview:
Q: Question on a different topic? Iran? I don't expect you to say that there are negotiations going on, but there are, Mr. Secretary, reports that the Iranians are willing to turn over some senior al-Qaida people that they have, but they would in turn want us to take further action against the MEK in Iraq, disband, eliminate, whatever term you want. Is that a fair description of the situation? Is that a deal worth doing considering the case of the terrorist lists?
Secretary Powell: We are in, as you can imagine, this is a sensitive issue let me just say. Using appropriate interlocutory, we are in touch with the Iranians on both of these issues.
Q: Are you optimistic?
Secretary Powell: We'll wait and see. Want to go back to that one?
Q: Let's sort of stick with the subject, the flavor of the minute here on Iran. A lot of people are theorizing that they are now the model state for developing nuclear capacity sort of in the modern transparent world. You get to within 12 to 18 months of a program by claiming and essentially disguising it as a civilian energy program, and then when you feel the moment is right you back out of your treaties and then you plow headlong towards a weapons program. And virtually, I mean, the press is loaded with certainly with analysis that would seem to indicate that. What is your take right now on Iran's nuclear energy project? And how concerned are you about where it's going?
Secretary Powell: We are concerned. We expressed that concern repeatedly throughout the course of this administration. We are particularly engaged with the Russians on their support of the projects such as we share. The Iranians, in recent months, have been found to be doing a number of things that we didn't know they were doing before that have now been brought to the attention of the IAEA. Some of the facilities that the IAEA is now looking at and wants more access to.
I think the Russians now share our concern and have used that word "We share concerns you have," that we have to be very careful going forward. As a first step, the international community is asking Iran to sign on to this additional protocol. Iran may or may not do that. We would not be satisfied until not only is the protocol signed, but any other indication that they might be using nuclear power activity for development of weapons has been dealt with.
As you rightly say, you can enter into lots of agreements and then back out of them. We want to see whether or not Iran is so committed to creating an indigenous fuel cycle that they don't need outside help after a while. And we believe that the international community is more and more coming to the conclusion that we have to do everything possible to persuade the Iranians one way or another that this is not the direction in which they should be moving. It doesn't do much for the their people. It's destabilizing to the region. And benefits await the Iranian people at some point in the future if they abandon this kind of activity of trying to develop weapons of mass destruction and they foreswear support of terrorist activities. And this is a policy we had maintained for some time.
I think what's changed in most recent months is that whereas it used to be just the United States sort of crying alone in the wilderness on this one, in light of recent revelations and information that's become available to IAEA and others, public people now share our concern.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)