The Bush administration has pledged to end the nuclear weapons programs in Iran and North Korea after concluding its campaign against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.
Administration officials said the White House sees the nuclear programs in Iran and
North Korea as the next imminent threats.
"In the aftermath of Iraq, dealing with the Iranian nuclear weapons
program will be of equal importance as dealing with the North Korean nuclear
weapons program," Assistant Secretary of State John Bolton said. "This is
going to be a substantial challenge."
Bolton told a conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee
that the Iranian nuclear weapons program would receive "extremely high
priority" under the Bush administration, Middle East Newsline reported. He said Iran is steadily advancing
toward nuclear weapons capability, a development confirmed by the
International Atomic Energy Agency inspection of two Iranian facilities in
"The estimate we have of how close the Iranians are to production of
nuclear weapons grows closer each day," Bolton said. "The IAEA was stunned
by the sophistication of the Iranian effort."
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice agreed. She said Iran will
continue to be regarded as a rogue regime and would come under close
examination by Washington.
"Sometimes people think we're a little bit 'the-sky-is-falling,
the-sky-is-falling' on these regimes that the president called the axis of
evil," Rice said. "Once we have a better atmosphere after Iraq, one of the
things we're going to have to look at is how the world gets itself better
organized to deal with issues concerning weapons of mass destruction."
The State Department signalled that it agreed with plans by the
administration to make Iran a priority after the war with Iraq. Officials
said Washington is trying to stop nuclear supplies from Russia and other
countries to Iran.
"Obviously, our concern about nuclear developments in Iran has only
grown in recent months with the kind of information that has been coming out
on Iran's nuclear fuel cycle," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher
said. "And obviously, equally obviously, we are engaged in an effort with
governments that may have some form of nuclear cooperation with Iran to try
to point out these new facts and make sure that they understand this is why
we have opposed it all along.