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9/19/03 - IRAN'S NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM - 2003-09-22

The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or I-A-E-A, has given Iran "one last chance" to cooperate with inspectors investigating charges that Iran has been undertaking clandestine nuclear activities in support of nuclear weapons programs. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli praised the I-A-E-A action:

"We welcome the adoption of this resolution, which. . .gives Iran an October 31st deadline. . . to answer fully all unresolved, International Atomic Energy Agency questions about its nuclear activities."

The U.S. has long been concerned that Iran is using its nuclear program, including the construction of the reactor at Bushehr [boo-share], as cover for efforts to obtain sensitive technologies and assistance to produce nuclear weapons. The Bushehr reactor is being built in cooperation with Russia. Nuclear fuel will be supplied to the reactor by Russia. The spent fuel is supposed to be returned to Russia to help ensure that Iran does not have access to fissile material that could be used in a nuclear weapon. But Iran has announced that it intends to mine its own uranium, enrich it, and convert it into nuclear fuel. The spent enriched uranium from that process could provide Iran the critical material needed to produce nuclear weapons.

An Iranian nuclear weapons program, if allowed to reach fruition, could give Iran the ability to attack other countries with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles and would be extremely destabilizing for the Middle East, and the global nonproliferation regime.

Iran is also the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism. It supports such terrorist groups as Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestine Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Iran has already provided some of these groups with conventional weapons.

In February, I-A-E-A Director General Mohammed El Baradei initiated a more rigorous investigation of Iran's nuclear activities. In reports in June and August, he provided compelling evidence that Iran was violating I-A-E-A safeguards, hiding its nuclear activities, lying to inspectors, and refusing to cooperate with them.

U.S. representative to the I-A-E-A, Ambassador Kenneth Brill, said the U.S. has made it clear that "the facts already established about Iran's nuclear program would fully justify an immediate finding of non-compliance by Iran." The I-A-E-A resolution, Ambassador Brill said, "conveys an unequivocal message that. . .the international community will not be satisfied or deflected by policies of delay, denial, and deception." Iran would be well-advised to heed this message.