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U.S. warns world that Iran has violated Non-Proliferation Treaty

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

The United States has called on the international community to end all nuclear commerce with Iran.

U.S. officials said the Bush administration has launched a campaign to persuade the 187 members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency to end all nuclear cooperation and trade with Iran, a member of the NPT. They said the administration has argued that Iran has already violated the spirit of the NPT as well as IAEA regulations.

Iran, the officials said, violated a 1992 IAEA directive that NPT signators declare nuclear facilities before their construction. Teheran failed to report two Iranian nuclear facilities until after their construction was disclosed by the United States in late 2002.

Officials said Iran has been one of the largest beneficiaries of IAEA nuclear technical cooperation. The IAEA has approved Russian plans for the construction of the Bushehr nuclear facility in an $800 million project. The reactor's first unit is expected to begin operations in 2004.

The administration effort was launched in wake of the IAEA's inspection of two additional Iranian nuclear facilities in February. Officials said the administration was alarmed by what inspectors found in the Arak and Natanz facilities and angered that the United Nations agency did not insist on greater access.

Officials said the inspection of the Natanz gas centrifuge site demonstrated that Teheran is building a nuclear weapons infrastructure that could result in Iran's first atomic bomb in 2005. They said the IAEA and several key NPT members have refused to acknowledge Iran's progress toward nuclear military capability until Teheran either tests or reports the production of atomic weapons.

"How many other NPT non-nuclear weapon states built an enrichment plant before their first power reactor was finished?" U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf asked. "None. What responsible country would or could commit to building a production scale plant without extensive research and development? None. How many other NPT non-nuclear weapon states with nuclear programs based solely on light water reactors have also built large-scale heavy water production plants? None. Why has Iran sought clandestinely to acquire laser enrichment technology? Iran has not answered, nor even admitted to this effort."

On Monday, Wolf reviewed Iran's nuclear program in an address to the NPT review conference in Geneva. The conference, which will last several weeks, was expected to focus on proposed revisions of the NPT in 2005.

The United States wants the NPT to include sanctions for members who do not fully cooperate with the treaty. In addition, Washington has called for increased nuclear safeguards by the IAEA, which could prevent the emergence of nuclear programs in such NPT states as Iraq and North Korea.

Iran's leading ally, North Korea, has announced its withdrawal from the NPT amid Pyongyang's admission that it has developed nuclear weapons.

"We all need to reflect on the fact, that North Korea and Iran obtained proven enrichment technologies largely undetected, even though, suppliers increased their scrutiny of enrichment transactions more than a decade ago," Wolf said.

IAEA director-general Mohammed El Baradei is expected to submit a full report on Iran's latest nuclear facilities during the agency's board of governors meeting in June. So far, El Baradei has only said that he had found a sophisticated facility at Natanz and urged Iran to be more forthcoming in its reporting.

"The IAEA needs to ask the hard questions and it deserves, it needs to get complete answers," Wolf said. "It needs to go wherever necessary to find the truth; and it needs to measure each answer against the pattern to date of denial and deception. Member states of the IAEA will need to know how Iran has responded to requests for access. Nuclear commerce must not continue when there are questions, even if those questions have not yet resulted in formal findings of noncompliance."

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