Sunday, March 05, 2006

U.S. Warns Iran of Consequences of Nuclear Ambitions

Carol Giacomo, Reuters:
The United States on Sunday warned that Iran faced "painful consequences" if it continued sensitive nuclear activities and said the problem would become increasingly difficult to resolve if the international community did not confront it.

Ahead of what could be a crucial international meeting on Iran on Monday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton reaffirmed that the United States will use "all tools at our disposal" to thwart Iran's nuclear program and is already "beefing up defensive measures" to do so. READ MORE

"The Iran regime must be made aware that if it continues down the path of international isolation, there will be tangible and painful consequences," he told 4,500 delegates to the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the leading pro-Israel U.S. lobbying group.

Monday's meeting of the 35-nation International Atomic Energy Agency governing board is expected to take stock of Iran's continued defiance of U.S. and European demands to end sensitive weapons-related uranium enrichment activity and then hand the case over to the UN Security Council.

The United States is discussing a 30- to 60-day deadline for Tehran to halt its nuclear program and cooperate with international inspectors or face intensified pressure in the security council, a U.S. official told Reuters.

Iran on Sunday again threatened to begin large-scale nuclear enrichment if the case is taken up by the security council.

Bolton said Iran poses a "comprehensive threat" as a state-sponsor of terrorism and a nuclear aspirant, and so "we must be prepared to ... use all the tools at our disposal to stop the threat."


"The longer we wait to confront the threat Iran poses, the harder and more intractable it will become to solve," he warned.

Bolton reaffirmed that Washington does not see the security council moving quickly to impose sanctions on Iran. Veto-wielding members Russia and China have made clear their reluctance.

But he said many other governments have begun to speak publicly of sanctions, implying they may take action outside the security council.

The United States has had sweeping sanctions on Iran since after the 1979 Iranian revolution, but it is looking at ways to further use its Proliferation Security Initiative to deny Iran materials it needs for its nuclear program, Bolton said.

The United States and key allies, led by the European Union trio of Britain, France and Germany, are convinced Iran is trying to produce a nuclear weapon, but Tehran insists it is only interested in civilian nuclear energy.

Former chief UN weapons inspector David Kay, who also spoke at the AIPAC conference, discussed the limits of weapons inspections and said a conclusive judgement about Iran's program may only come too late, after it conducts a weapons test.

The IAEA is expected to weigh a report on Monday by the IAEA chief saying Iran has ignored a February 4 resolution urging it to shelve uranium-enrichment work to ease the crisis.

Instead, Iran is vacuum-testing 20 centrifuges, which convert uranium into fuel for power plants or, if highly purified, bombs, the report said. Iran also plans to install 3,000 centrifuges later this year in a push to "industrial scale" enrichment, according to the IAEA report.

The IAEA board voted on February 4 to report Iran to the security council, but on the condition the world body would not flex its muscle at least until after Monday's session.

If the security council did not act in a timely manner, Bolton said, the council's credibility would be damaged.