24 November 2004

United States Remains "Agnostic" about EU-Iran Negotiations

Powell says United States is still awaiting a permanent solution

The United States remains "agnostic" regarding the value of negotiations between Iran and the EU 3 -- France, Germany and the United Kingdom -- aimed at ensuring that Iran does not pursue nuclear weapons capabilities, according to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The United States has been supportive of the Europeans' efforts, Powell said in November 23 television interviews in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where he was attending a regional conference on the situation in Iraq, but he noted that Iran's recent agreement to suspend its enrichment activities was not unlike a similar promise it made in 2003 and then withdrew in 2004.

"So now the European Union has another arrangement with the Iranians, with tougher verification regime associated with it. The IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] will be going in to monitor all of this. That's good. We support it," he said. "But, keep in mind it's still just -- in the eyes of the Iranians -- a suspension. And a suspension means that they can turn it back on. We want it to be turned off permanently."

Powell defended his previous statement that Iran seems to be developing weapons delivery systems intended for nuclear warheads. He said that the kinds of missiles that Iran has been developing and recent intelligence reports suggest to him that those missiles are part of a nuclear weapons program.

Powell said that the Bush administration has been intent on drawing international attention to Iran's nuclear ambitions, but he added that the United States is not alone in its suspicions about the Iranian program.

He said that the European foreign ministers who engaged in negotiations with Iran "didn't get involved because there was nothing else to do that day. They got involved because they realized there was a problem with Iran's programs."

Powell maintained that the United States is seeking a diplomatic, political solution to the issue and is not anxious to pursue a military solution.

"We hope that Iran will realize in due course that it is not in [its] interest to move in the direction of a nuclear weapon or a program that could lead to weapons," he said.

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