Briefing with Department Spokesperson Sean McCormack on Uranium Enrichment in Iran (Excerpts)

June 8, 2006

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QUESTION: I wanted to do Iran and a couple of different topics, one of them being Iran's support for terrorism. And do you have any fear that the terrorism issue will be lost in the sort of buildup of excitement over the potential talks, the U.S. joining the multilateral talks over the nuclear program or would you plan to bring up the terrorism issue at the same table?

MR. MCCORMACK:: I would expect that if we ever do get to the point of negotiation and, again the ball is in the Iranians' court, that certainly we would bring that up. The point of any potential negotiations would be to address the nuclear program, but you can be sure that the United States Government would bring up issues related to terrorism in the discussions.

QUESTION: Okay. And along those lines, did you see the reports just before we came out that the new IAEA report will show that Iran has done a uranium enrichment this week, a new round of uranium enrichment?

MR. MCCORMACK:: I have not seen those reports. These reports sometimes come out in the press before we even get our hands on them. So I can't tell you that we have gotten our copy of it yet, but I know that it's going to be a topic of discussion at the IAEA. I think there's a board meeting on the 12th, so usually in advance of those the IAEA will issue the report. Typically what we do in these cases is we don't -- because the report remains a confidential report to the members of the Board of Governors, we don't typically comment on them in public. If at some point in the future there's something that I can share with you in that regard, I'd be happy to.

QUESTION: If that's true, does that make you question the good faith in which Iran would try to move forward as the process is just looking promising?

MR. MCCORMACK:: Right. Again, I'm not going to try to comment on a report that certainly I haven't seen yet and I can't confirm it for you that the U.S. Government has received yet.

QUESTION: Can you give us any update on when you would expect Iran to give a response, a formal response to the package?

MR. MCCORMACK:: Well, we have previously said that they have a matter of weeks, not months, to respond. And we are looking forward to -- we hope that it's a positive response, and we hope that we hear that positive response when they speak with Mr. Solana in the coming days or weeks.

QUESTION: So you have something new about -- a new visit, no?


QUESTION: But say in your statement that he expects -- Solana expects to have contacts in the coming days.

MR. MCCORMACK:: We expect --

QUESTION: When are you expecting the Iranian response?

MR. MCCORMACK:: I can't predict, Saul. I can't predict.


MR. MCCORMACK:: I would just bound it by saying from the P-5+1 perspective they have a matter of weeks to respond.


MR. MCCORMACK:: I can't tell you whether or not they are going to have additional questions that they -- for Mr. Solana. And that might necessitate some contact before they give a formal response.

QUESTION: So just to clarify, that Solana is expecting a kind of formal response by the Iranian Government and you're not taking statements by the Iranian President or Foreign Minister about the package to be any kind of indication either way as to what --

MR. MCCORMACK:: I'm not going to comment on a variety of statements coming out from Iranian officials. We'll look for a formal response from the Iranians via Mr. Solana.

QUESTION: On the issue of allowing weeks for a response, is the reason you won't specify the number of weeks because the P-5+1 members don't actually agree on how many weeks it should be?


QUESTION: Do you have a number?

MR. MCCORMACK:: We have agreement on the timeframe.

QUESTION: You have an agreement on a specific number of weeks, it's just you don't want to say publicly what that number of weeks is.

MR. MCCORMACK:: That's correct.

QUESTION: It is. Can we get it? (Laughter.) Is it six? It's not months or seven or a few?

MR. MCCORMACK:: No, thanks.

QUESTION: Is it before the August vacation season? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So I mean, Iran has seen this package last week with the understanding that sitting down to negotiations would mean that it would need to stop its enrichment process. The fact that they -- this report may say that -- and as we started again this week, if that turns out to be true, would you take that as an indication that, you know --

MR. MCCORMACK:: Several levels of hypotheticals and I'm not going to get into them.


QUESTION: Can we just get one more on this.


QUESTION: Obviously in the event of a deal, would it be the Security Council that would be the ultimate body to determine whether or not Iran could resume uranium enrichment?

MR. MCCORMACK:: Saul, we talked a little bit about this yesterday. And what I'm trying to do is bring you back to where we are. And where we are right now is that there are conditions that the Iranian Government would need to meet in order to realize negotiations and that, you know. I would go one step further and to say that if there were any negotiations that those conditions would have to hold throughout those negotiations -- suspension. And that's laid out in the February 2006 IAEA Board of Governors statement. Beyond that, I'm not going to get into what may or may not happen.

QUESTION: But the general aspect of a deal that if there were to be talks and negotiations, would you then bring it back -- Saul's question -- would you bring the whole deal back to the Security Council for its blessing or a resolution endorsing it? Or is this something separate outside of the Security Council?

MR. MCCORMACK:: Elise, really there are two paths here. If they choose the pathway of not negotiating, then you end up in the Security Council. The other pathway is negotiation. I'm not going to -- other than the conditions that I -- that Foreign Secretary Beckett and the P-5 have laid out, I'm not going to get into what may or may not happen in a negotiation.

QUESTION: One more, Sean. I know we talked about this yesterday, but just to continue beating it to death. The Secretary has said on the record as recently as eight days ago that Iran needed to suspend its program forever. Asked specifically, she said forever. And as of yesterday you weren't saying that Iran needed to suspend its program forever. Why -- what has changed?

MR. MCCORMACK:: What we want and what everybody else wants is we don't want Iran to be able to master those critical pathways, those technologies, that know-how, in order to be able to acquire a nuclear weapon. They have signed up to the Nonproliferation Treaty which says that they are not going to try to develop a nuclear weapon in exchange for being able to develop peaceful nuclear energy. Now the international community, because of Iran's behavior, has said that they have real concerns about Iran's nuclear program and that is now -- that has expressed itself -- that concern has expressed itself through the IAEA Board of Governors statement and now a Security Council statement.

Iran has an opportunity to realize a different kind of relationship than it now has with the rest of the world. That relationship now is one where there really is very little trust, very little -- if any -- trust, on this matter of the Iranian nuclear program. So everybody is united around the idea that Iran shouldn't be able to -- it shouldn't acquire a nuclear weapon, that they can't be allowed, they can't be trusted with those technologies and that know-how -- enrichment in this case -- that might lead them to that.

And as a result, we have said that if they want negotiations then they have to suspend, they have to fully suspend all enrichment and reprocessing-related activities. So that's where we are right now.

QUESTION: Back to my point. She once said they need to suspend it forever -- in other words, end it -- and now you're not saying they need to suspend it forever.

MR. MCCORMACK:: Teri, look. We and the rest of the world are united in the idea that Iran shouldn't be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon, they shouldn't be allowed to master those critical pathways and those technologies. Everybody agrees on that.


QUESTION: Following his question, is the Russian proposal is under the package or not? Because if not, then you're going to give --

MR. MCCORMACK:: I'm not going to talk about, again, what's in the package. The Russians signed up to this package as a P-5+1 proposal or offer to the Iranian Government.

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