23 September 2003
Russia Should Suspend Nuclear Cooperation With Iran
Ambassador Vershbow says Russia should wait until IAEA protocol is signed
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow said September 19 that Iran is "a critical test case" for the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and hopes that Russia will suspend its cooperation with Tehran's nuclear program until Iran fully cooperates with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Addressing the Second Moscow International Non-proliferation Conference, Vershbow said the United States hopes "Russia will freeze construction at the Bushehr nuclear power plant [in Iran] and refuse to deliver fuel for it until Iran agrees to sign the Additional Protocol and cooperates fully with the IAEA in implementing it."
The ambassador cited several instances of Iran's non-cooperation with the IAEA, which he said were inconsistent "with what one would expect from a state that is fully honoring its NPT obligations."
"It would be a devastating blow to international security and to the non-proliferation regime if Iran were to go nuclear, and the United States seeks to work with all of its partners in non-proliferation to ensure that Iran remains within the NPT," he said.
Following are excerpts from Vershbow's remarks:
There are good reasons to ask whether Iran is moving down the same road [as North Korea]. Iran's policy of deception and delay belies its claims of developing nuclear technology for purely peaceful purposes. In one instance, Iran allowed IAEA inspectors to take samples from a site only after denying them access for months -- sufficient time to clean up the facility in question. Another example involves Iran's changing explanations of its enrichment efforts. Although Iran initially said its enrichment program was entirely indigenous, it changed its story when IAEA inspectors found traces of highly enriched uranium in a centrifuge. At that point Iran claimed that it had purchased the equipment abroad and asserted that it had been contaminated by its original owner. Nothing about Iran's behavior is consistent with what one would expect from a state that is fully honoring its NPT obligations. Without the full compliance of all parties, and without a strict verification regime, there is a growing risk that the international confidence that has underpinned the Treaty could be lost. Unless this is corrected, there is a risk it could lead to regional nuclear arms races and destroy the basis for the peaceful sharing of nuclear technology.
To strengthen the existing [non-proliferation] regime, we need to increase our political commitment to the NPT, the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and deal firmly with countries whose programs today pose serious threats to these treaties. More rigorous requirements, supplemented by more rigorous enforcement, offer the best hope for deterring any other party from seeking to acquire or transfer WMD or related technologies. Our experiences with Iran and North Korea show that we must be constantly mindful that an irresponsible party may use its declared peaceful nuclear program to mask the development of a WMD capability.
Iran is a critical test case for the NPT and the international community's ability to give effective enforcement powers to the IAEA. One week ago, the IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution giving Iran until October 31 to prove that it does not have a covert nuclear weapons program. Iran's evasiveness in recent months compels us to ask what Iran is hiding. If its nuclear program were entirely peaceful, as Tehran claims, there would be no need to deceive the inspectors or to delay their inspections. It would be a devastating blow to international security and to the non-proliferation regime if Iran were to go nuclear, and the United States seeks to work with all of its partners in non-proliferation to ensure that Iran remains within the NPT.
The United States looks to Russia to help convince the North Koreans that there will be no business as usual in Russian-North Korean relations unless Pyongyang accepts complete, irreversible and verifiable elimination of its nuclear weapons program. We also hope that Russia will freeze construction at the Bushehr nuclear power plant and refuse to deliver fuel for it until Iran agrees to sign the Additional Protocol and cooperates fully with the IAEA in implementing it. The United States is counting on Russia to be a partner in non-proliferation and to use its influence to prevent the nuclearization of North Korea and Iran.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)