Defense Secretary Robert Gates Remarks that Countries Should be Cautious Dealing with Iran

By John D. Banusiewicz, American Forces Press Service
November 23, 2010

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia, Nov. 21, 2010 - Though sovereign nations can have relationships with any other nations they choose, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today, countries that choose to have a relationship with Iran should do so carefully, in light of its track record of ignoring U.N. Security Council Resolutions.

Gates, who arrived here today to participate in a conference of Western Hemisphere defense ministers, met with U.S. and South American reporters and was asked for his views on relationships Bolivia and Venezuela have with Iran.

Bolivia and Iran have agreed to work together in developing nation reservoirs of uranium, and Venezuela and Iran recently signed 11 agreements for cooperation in various areas. Iran's stated purpose in acquiring uranium is for civil power generation.

"Bolivia, obviously, can have relationships with any country in the world that it wishes to," Gates said. "But I think Bolivia needs to be mindful of the number of United Nations Security Council resolutions that have been passed with respect to Iran's behavior."

The secretary said the United States has no problem with Iran having civil nuclear capability, as long as it's in accord with International Atomic Energy Agency standards and all safeguards are in place to prevent development or proliferation of nuclear weapons.

As to whether Iran might use its relationship with Venezuela to advance its nuclear program, Gates said any nation considering a relationship with Iran in that arena should be cautious about "what the Iranian motives may be and what they are trying to do," given its history of ignoring U.N. Security Council resolutions concerning its nuclear program.

"If they're talking about civil nuclear power, and it's all safeguarded and under the IAEA, then we would have no reason to object," the secretary said. "I would add one other thing, though: I'm not sure that the Iranians have an independent capability to help somebody build a civil nuclear capability. Their own capability, at Bushehr, has been done under contract by the Russians, going back almost 20 years."