18 December 2003
U.S. Cautiously Welcomes Iran's Signing of IAEA Protocol
State's Boucher urges Iranian implementation of promises
State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher welcomed Iran's signing of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) protocol allowing short-notice inspections of its nuclear facilities as "a useful step," but he said the United States is waiting to see if Tehran will now implement the programs it has agreed to.
"The signature alone doesn't implement the promises, it doesn't suspend the enrichment program, and it doesn't fully satisfy the international community that Iran is not going to carry out activities relating to nuclear weapons," said Boucher, speaking at the December 18 State Department briefing in Washington.
The spokesman said it was important for the IAEA to ensure "rigorous verification" and implementation of the additional protocol, since Iran has "a history of deception in this area."
"Fundamentally, for the international community to have full confidence in Iran's nuclear program, they're going to need to abandon enrichment and reprocessing, and they're going to need to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Agency in allowing everything that the protocol provides for and in answering all the questions they've been asked," he said.
Following is an excerpt from the December 18 State Department briefing:
QUESTION: Mr. Brill thought this was a step in the right direction that Iran had taken by agreeing to unfettered international inspection. Others might focus on what they actually do to implement this promise. What is the State Department's view of this? Is this a monumental concession by Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't use words like "monumental." I would agree with Ambassador Brill, as he said, that it's a useful step. It's welcome that Iran has made this commitment, but what's important to remember is that it is only a first step. Iran needs to bring this into force, needs to ratify the additional protocol that is now signed. And above all, it needs to implement the programs that they've agreed to.
For the part of the IAEA, they need to ensure that there is rigorous verification of the protocol's implementation because Iran does have a history of deception in this area, as demonstrated by the information the IAEA has been able to report over the past several months.
So we look to Iran to implement this, to carry out its promises in signing the protocol, and also to keep its promises to give full cooperation and transparency to the International Atomic Energy Agency's ongoing investigation into Iran's nuclear activities; and furthermore, to suspend all enrichment-related reprocessing activity as the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors has insisted.
Fundamentally, for the international community to have full confidence in Iran's nuclear program, they're going to need to abandon enrichment and reprocessing, and they're going to need to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Agency in allowing everything that the protocol provides for and in answering all the questions they've been asked.
QUESTION: I think you're saying, at least that you hope, but do you expect that inspection will get to enrichment, which is I guess, now, the primary concern? You can go ahead with a nuclear program, a country can, and be part of the NPT. I mean, but anyhow -- do you -- are you confident -- is the U.S. confident that the enrichment program will be supervised now? And are you setting aside, at least for now, any threat of sanctions? Are you satisfied you've seen enough to, you know, sidetrack that for a bit?
MR. BOUCHER: We have agreed with other members of the Board of Governors that we will continue to watch this program very closely to make sure that Iran does implement all its promises. The signature alone doesn't implement the promises, it doesn't suspend the enrichment program, and it doesn't fully satisfy the international community that Iran is not going to carry out activities relating to nuclear weapons. So it's, as I said, a useful step that they've signed, but actual implementation and then verification are the important steps now.
QUESTION: And sanctions is --
MR. BOUCHER: We've kept this under advisement, together with other members of the Board of Governors. I can't remember exactly what the time delay was on the -- the time limit on the last decision, but there are meetings coming up in the new year where the Board of Governors will keep looking at Iran's actions to see not only whether they've signed, but whether they've allowed the inspections, whether they've answered the questions, whether they've suspended the programs and carried out all the other promises that they have been making.
QUESTION: Richard, is there any chance in exploring with the United Nations and other groups the possibility of implementing a similar type program that you've just spoken about Iraq with Iranian scientists, and also, perhaps, with Hans Blix and Mr. ElBaradei?
MR. BOUCHER: I've not heard any discussion about it at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have any expectations on how long it may take Iran to ratify the additional protocol? Have they given any indications to the IAEA about when that may happen?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of, but you'd have to ask the Iranians about that. I've seen, I think, some quotes today from Iranians in Vienna, but didn't contain that information.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)