The Wall Street Journal: The U.S. and other nations warned Iran against resuming efforts to produce fuel usable for a nuclear reactor or potentially a bomb, as diplomats gathered in New York for the opening session of a major international arms control conference. While Washington called on Iran to completely and verifiably dismantle its fuel facilities, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said that if the Iranians … The Wall Street Journal
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN in Washington and GABRIEL KAHN in Rome
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The U.S. and other nations warned Iran against resuming efforts to produce fuel usable for a nuclear reactor or potentially a bomb, as diplomats gathered in New York for the opening session of a major international arms control conference.
While Washington called on Iran to completely and verifiably dismantle its fuel facilities, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said that if the Iranians break their suspension of nuclear fuel production “the alternative would be the [United Nations”> Security Council.”
After meeting with Iran’s foreign minister, the U.N.’s top nuclear inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei, said he hoped “the Iranians would not take” any unilateral steps.
The warnings came amid growing concern that Tehran will make good on its recent threats to pull out of negotiations with the Europeans and restart its efforts to produce enriched uranium. Iran’s foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, was to address today’s session of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference. He is expected to insist on Iran’s right to pursue all aspects of what it describes as a peaceful nuclear power program.
Last week, Mr. Kharrazi declared that if the talks with the Europeans didn’t quickly show results, “we will have no choice but to restart the uranium enrichment program.” One diplomat who has followed the talks expressed concern that the Iranians may be getting ready to call the European and American bluff.
According to the diplomat, the Iranians have privately provided the Europeans with a timetable for their nuclear program, specifying April as their date for resuming production of uranium hexafluoride, a big first step toward uranium enrichment. “They seem serious about their timetable,” the diplomat said.
In a speech at the U.N. conference yesterday, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Stephen Rademaker criticized both Iran and North Korea for their nuclear ambitions and insisted that nuclear suppliers as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency — which provides technical advice on peaceful programs — should cut off “all nuclear assistance” to any states that fail to comply with the nonproliferation treaty.
North Korea has pulled out of the treaty and declared that it has nuclear weapons. Iran hid its nuclear efforts from U.N. monitors for nearly two decades. Mr. Rademaker said that “for two decades Iran has conducted a clandestine nuclear weapons program,” but he notably stopped short of calling for immediate sanctions on Iran.
Overall, Mr. Rademaker’s speech was low-key in tone, a measure of the Bush administration’s desire to avoid major controversy at the month-long U.N. meeting. The decision not to send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to address the conference also appeared to reflect Washington’s desire to lower the profile of what is expected to be a fractious meeting.
U.S. officials are expecting tough criticism of their own nuclear record at the conference, which brings together nearly 190 countries every five years to review progress under the 1970 treaty. The nuclear powers are regularly criticized for not moving faster toward their treaty commitment to disarm. The U.S. is almost certain to come in for particular criticism for its rejection of a nuclear test-ban treaty and for its declared interest in pursuing new nuclear weapons.
Mr. Rademaker defended the U.S. disarmament record yesterday, noting deep cuts agreed to with Russia on the number of deployed nuclear weapons. He didn’t follow the advice of some administration hawks who had argued for directly challenging U.S. critics by dismissing their commitment to many traditional arms control treaties as “old think.”
Mr. Rademaker did use the speech to reinforce Mr. Bush’s proposals to curtail the spread of nuclear weapons, including his call to make more intrusive inspections mandatory for all treaty signatories and a more controversial call to ban all new sales of nuclear fuel technology to countries without such capabilities.