AP: The United States urged Iran to abandon the pursuit of nuclear arms forever, saying Wednesday that the International Atomic Energy Agency had overwhelming evidence of an Iranian weapons program.
The Associated Press
By GEORGE JAHN
VIENNA, Austria (AP) — The United States urged Iran to abandon the pursuit of nuclear arms forever, saying Wednesday that the International Atomic Energy Agency had overwhelming evidence of an Iranian weapons program.
Gregory Schulte, the chief U.S. delegate to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, joined European powers in criticizing Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment or cooperate with the U.N. investigation into allegations of a weapons program.
"The questions that remain unanswered strongly suggest that Iran has undertaken a significant state-sponsored effort to develop nuclear weapons — an effort that agency inspectors are not in a position to verify has halted," he told the 35-nation board that oversees the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Schulte urged the Islamic Republic to abandon such plans.
A U.S. intelligence summary published last year concluded Iran stopped active pursuit of nuclear weapons five years ago. Schulte's statement did not touch on a time frame.
Iran has claimed that evidence from the U.S. and other IAEA board members purportedly showing Tehran tried to make nuclear arms was faked. The European Union said that claim "is neither credible nor acceptable, given the quality of and quantity of the documents presented by the agency to Iran."
The IAEA says it has asked in vain for substantive explanations of what appear to be draft plans to refit missiles with nuclear warheads; explosives tests that could be used for a nuclear detonation; military-civilian nuclear links and a drawing showing how to mold uranium metal into the shape of a warhead.
The U.N. agency has appeared in recent weeks to be taking the evidence extremely seriously, strongly criticizing Iran for its defiance in a marked change of tone for the normally staid body.
On Tuesday, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Iran will continue to develop its nuclear program — but only for peaceful purposes.
Iran has been criticized for defying three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions and continuing to enrich uranium, a process that can generate both nuclear reactor fuel and the fissile material for the core of atomic bombs.
Britain, France and Germany, the European powers at the forefront of engaging Iran on its nuclear program, urged Tehran to accept an offer to start talks meant to allay concerns it wants to make weapons.
In Brussels, Belgium, the EU's foreign policy chief announced he would soon meet with Iranian leaders in a new attempt to sell them on nuclear negotiations.
"I don't expect miracles but I think it is important for us to keep extending a hand," Javier Solana told the European Parliament.
In a debate on the EU's foreign policy, Solana told EU lawmakers it was important to continue to discuss international concerns about Iran's uranium enrichment program.
The "carrot and stick" concept — offering Tehran incentives to persuade it to modify its nuclear behavior while punishing it if it doesn't — has been the cornerstone of international efforts to engage Iran since 2004.
That is when European powers, backed by the U.S., Russia and China, first offered Tehran economic, political and technological rewards if it suspends uranium enrichment and other activities that could be used to make nuclear arms.
Iran has steadfastly insisted, however, that it would not bargain over its right to enrich, which it says it needs to generate electricity with nuclear reactors.