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U.S: Iran's Nuclear Program, Support for Terrorism

Excerpt: U.S. Concerned about Iran's Nuclear Program, Support for Terrorism

(State's Boucher Says U.S. Policy toward Iran Has Not Changed)

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters on May 27 that U.S. "policies towards Iran have not changed." Boucher was speaking at the regular State Department noon briefing May 27.

U.S. policy toward Iran, Boucher said is to side with the Iranian people in their call for democratic reform, more openness, and modernization.

Boucher said the United States has concerns about Iran's policies and that it has raised these concerns with Iran.

"Those, essentially four things -- terrorism, nuclear developments, Middle East, opposition to the peace process; and poor human rights record have been standard issues that we have sough to raise with Iran in a variety of ways," Boucher said.

Responding to questions about Al Qaida members in Iran, Boucher said, "We have said that there are Al Qaida members in Iran, and that Iran needs to deal with them in accordance with their international responsibilities that all countries have under Resolution 1373."

On nuclear issues, Boucher said, "We all have a mutual interest in ensuring that Iran abide by its Nonproliferation Treaty obligations not to develop nuclear weapons. And we share concerns about grave risk to the region and to our security interests posed by a nuclear weapons-capable Iran."

Commenting on Russia's statement that it intends to continue cooperating with Iran on the Bushehr reactor, Boucher said the United States is working together with Russia in regards to Iran's nuclear program.

But, he added, "There's no reason for a country like Iran, which flares off more gas in a year than it would ever get from these nuclear programs, no reason for a country like Iran to have these programs. It just doesn't make sense for anything other than nuclear weapons. And therefore, we think it is not appropriate for -- not in anybody's interests to be helping Iran with its nuclear program."

Following are excerpts from the May 27 State Department briefing about Iran:

(begin excerpt)

QUESTION: Can we move on to Iran, perhaps? The Secretary said this morning that contacts with Iran will continue. Was he referring to the direct, face-to-face meetings in Geneva?

MR. BOUCHER: He was referring to a variety of ways that we have to communicate our views with Iran when we find it necessary and appropriate, and that will continue. I'm not going to get into any particular channel or any particular way at this point.

QUESTION: Can you -- so you can't say whether the Geneva channel is open or closed?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't say whether any particular means of communicating will be used again and at what point it might be used again, but we have a variety of ways to make clear our views to Iran and we will continue to use all the ones that are appropriate.

QUESTION: Can you say when the last time one of these variety of ways was used to get in touch with the Iranians?

MR. BOUCHER: They're used all the time.

QUESTION: So every day?

MR. BOUCHER: Every day may be kind of an exaggeration, but when there's something important, like the need for Iran to live up to the international responsibilities that all countries have under Resolution 1373 to fight terrorism, to prevent safe haven, when there are messages and information like that that we want to make sure Iran understands, we find a variety of ways, and that goes on. For example, we have ways of passing messages, but we also have friends, Europeans and others, who might share the same views who might be passing messages as well.

George.

QUESTION: The National Council of Resistance in Iran held a news conference this morning and they said they came across two previously undisclosed facilities for production of -- uranium enrichment facilities, and they also said they have made known their information to the proper authorities in the U.S. Government.

Do you know anything about this?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know anything specifically about that. I would have to check and see if we have any particular information of our own that could confirm it. I have made clear that one of our longstanding concerns about Iran has been the nuclear programs, has been what we consider to be nuclear weapons programs, and that that information that's come out in recent months about the full scope, nuclear fuel cycle that Iran was putting together, raises those concerns and I think puts those concerns more clearly in front of the international community. So we continue to pursue the effort. We look for a full and complete report from the International Atomic Energy Agency Director, Director ElBaradei, when the IAEA Board is expected to take this up in mid-June.

Elise.

QUESTION: Could you discuss -- last week, you alluded to the fact that you -- the Administration alluded to the fact that al-Qaida members could be in Iran, could be transiting through the country. Could you tell us where you think that that stands? Do you think that Iran is providing safe haven to these al-Qaida members? They have said that have detained some of them. Could you flesh out a little bit what your understanding of what this is --

MR. BOUCHER: I can't flesh it out. We have not received any particular information on what Iran may or may not have done. I have noted their public statements that say that they have detained some people, that they say they don't know who they are yet. I have noted public statements that say -- that note that in the past they have even expelled people to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan at times. But at this point, we don't have any particular information on Iran, what they've done or what they might do, so I can't really clarify it for you.

QUESTION: Are you -- can I follow up, Richard?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you talking about direct information that they've shared with you? Or you don't have any information that perhaps they might have passed along to other members of -- that met up the Geneva process last week?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have -- we have not acquired any particular information at this point on what their -- what they might be doing with regard to the presence of al-Qaida people there.

QUESTION: I have two things. On Elise's point, when you say you have not received particular information, you're not referring to the vast amount of information that you have from intelligence or other sorts of things; you're just talking about from the Iranians?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I mean transmitted information of some kind.

QUESTION: The Secretary also said that the Iran policy had not changed. Not to be flip, but it's very hard to discern what the American Iran policy is given the various statements coming from different buildings in Washington.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it should be that difficult. I'll read you the White House statement from July 12th, 2002, which I just happen to have with me. Let me just read you the first paragraph.

"We have seen throughout history the power of one simple idea: when given a choice, people will choose freedom. As we witnessed over the past few days" -- this is in relation to the demonstrations that were being held -- "the people of Iran want the same freedoms, human rights and opportunities as people around the world. The government should listen to their hopes."

So, first and foremost, I think, is the basic policy of siding with the Iranian people and their call for the Iranian Government to -- for democratic reform, for more openness for its society, for modernization of the society with the rest of the world.

Second of all, I think it has always been the longstanding positions that we have expressed here and the White House and elsewhere that we have expressed our concerns about Iran's nuclear weapons programs, we have expressed concerns about Iran's support for terrorism, particularly groups like Hezbollah, but also questions now of whether or not al-Qaida members are in Iran and what Iran should be doing about it.

We have also expressed our concern about their opposition to the Middle East peace process and Iran's poor human rights record. Those essentially four things -- terrorism, nuclear developments, Middle East -- opposition to the peace process -- and poor human rights record -- have been standard issues that we have sought to raise with Iran in a variety of ways.

QUESTION: Well, just one and I'll stop on this. But when you say -- when you talk about the July 12th statement, two things related to that. Is the U.S. Government planning to give support to the July 9th general strike that's being planned in Iran?

And maybe you could clear up, if you're supporting people who want a democratic referendum in the country, is that the same as supporting a change in regime in Tehran?

MR. BOUCHER: There are people in Iran who are calling for a more democratic system, including demonstrators. We are expressing our sentiments. We are expressing our views, our policies that we side with them in terms of wanting more democracy and more openness. That's, I think, a clear policy of the United States we've always held. I don't know that I can take it any steps beyond that, but that's clearly what the policy is.

Jon.

QUESTION: Is it your position on -- that there are al-Qaida members in Iran? You seem unclear about it.

MR. BOUCHER: It is our -- yes, we have said that there are al-Qaida members in Iran and that Iran needs to deal with them in accordance with their international responsibilities that all countries have under Resolution 1373. Resolution 1373 requires all countries to deny safe haven to those who plan, support or commit terrorist acts and to affirmatively take steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts by providing early warning to other states by exchange of information.

QUESTION: Is it your position that the Iranian Government is knowingly harboring them, or that it's just a leaky border that hasn't --

MR. BOUCHER: I have not been able to talk about that any further at this point in terms of what we might know or think about how they are -- where they are. The Iranian Government now says they have some of these people in custody, so certainly the resolution would apply to the country as a whole, and particularly to people that they might have in custody. The issue is not -- I mean, you have to do these things under the UN resolution. Countries have to take charge of this area, have to make sure that their territory is not being used as safe haven, make sure their territory is not being used to plan terrorist attacks. That's the requirement of the resolution.

...................

QUESTION: Did there -- do you have any comment on the Russian statement that they intend to continue cooperating with Iran on the Bushehr reactor?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specific comment on the Russian statement. I think they put forward some proposals on how they might be willing to do that. Whether Iran is or is not willing to do that, would obviously might be an indicator of their intentions.

But our view has been that Iran's clandestine nuclear weapons program is such that Russia and other members should join the Nuclear Supplier Group in ending all nuclear cooperation with Iran. Secretary Powell and President Putin discussed this issue in Moscow on May 14th. As you know, we have had an ongoing series of exchanges with the Russian Government on that issue. We all have a mutual interest in assuring that Iran abide by its Nonproliferation Treaty obligations not to develop nuclear weapons, and we share concerns about grave risks to the region and to our security interests posed by a nuclear weapons-capable Iran. So we are working together with Russia in that regard and we look for any positive movement in this direction. But our view remains that it is important for everybody to end nuclear cooperation with Iran.

QUESTION: It sounds like you're disappointed that the Russians should be effectively saying --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I will let the Russians explain their own statement. We will see if the Iranians agree to whatever it is the Russians have proposed. But our view and our dialogue continues as we look forward to the report that we expect to get from the IAEA in June.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up? Are you seeing positive elements in what the Russians said?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not going to try to dissect for you the Russian statement. They'll have to analyze it on their own.

QUESTION: Last week when the Russian Defense Minister was here, at the conclusion of his talks a senior Russian official -- he couldn't -- was asked not to speak in name -- spoke of the light water reactor as being extremely comparable to the light water reactor in North Korea that the U.S. was willing to help supply, that it was no more -- well, not putting words into his mouth. He said it's the same situation, implying that it's a civilian use reactor.

Does the U.S. dispute that what they're doing with the reactor itself isn't really contributing to their nuclear program, weapons program?

MR. BOUCHER: The position that we have always held is that Iran was engaged in a much broader program, that they were using the nuclear reactor as cover for acquisitions, for expertise, for exchanges, for a much broader program. And now it's becoming increasingly clear that that broader program that we had always talked about, in fact, exists. It's a full nuclear fuel cycle program. There is a no reason for a country like Iran, which flares off more gas in a year than it would ever get from these nuclear programs, no reason for a country like Iran to have those programs. It just doesn't make sense for anything other than nuclear weapons, and therefore we think it is not appropriate for -- not in anybody's interest to be helping Iran with its nuclear programs.

QUESTION: Richard, since the ceasefire deal and then the disarmament deal with the People's Mujahedin in Iraq, have you guys started to take steps to remove them from the list of terrorist organizations?

MR. BOUCHER: Why?

QUESTION: Well, I'm just curious as to why, once again, you know, the sister, this group, the National Council of Resistance, has been allowed to hold a press conference on U.S. soil when it's deemed a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I have to refer you to the Justice Department for questions about their status.

QUESTION: Is the State Department at all upset that its -- that the Secretary's judgment on this group seems to be being flouted by the Justice Department? Are they --

MR. BOUCHER: I refer you to the Justice Department, which has the final decision on their status in the United States.

QUESTION: How is this different from when the PFLP holds a press conference to talk about stuff in Damascus?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I refer you to the Department of Justice for questions about their status in the United States.

............

QUESTION: There has been a lot of talk in the last couple of days, maybe some of it overblown, about whether there is a "Principals Meeting" or "Senior Officials Meeting" on Iran to discuss any kind of who-next steps on policy. Would it be -- without talk -- well, if you could talk about whether there is a meeting or if a meeting's coming up. But if not, would it be accurate to say that you're reviewing all your policy options in -- perhaps to take a new policy direction on Iran, or coming to some kind of policy review on Iran?

MR. BOUCHER: Great story. Not true. No, it would be inaccurate to say that. It would be accurate to say what the Secretary of State told you this morning: "Our policies with respect to Iran have not changed." That's what would be accurate.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, they haven't changed yet, but are they in the process of --

MR. BOUCHER: No, don't -- I'm sorry, our policies toward Iran have not changed. We're not in the process of changing them. We're always looking at how we operate under those policies. But as the Secretary has said, we have ways of communicating, we have ways of contacting them, and we would expect to do so again.


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