Briefing by Scott McClellan on Iran and the IAEA

February 19, 2004

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

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Q Sources in this administration and in other countries have said that the International Atomic Energy Agency has found evidence of uranium enrichment and other nuclear activities in Iran, far beyond what Iran had declared. What does the administration know about what has been discovered, and is it proof to the President and to the administration that this process in which the Europeans took the lead in encouraging more openness in inspections, that that process has failed?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would say that these reports that we are seeing of Iran enriching uranium and possessing more advanced centrifuge designs raise serious concerns. We have always stated our belief that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon program under the cover of pursuing nuclear power for peaceful reasons. A country with the vast oil and gas resources of Iran has no legitimate need for nuclear energy. And full confidence about Iran's nuclear program requires Iran to abandon uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.

Iran agreed to -- a few months ago -- to implement an additional protocol to stop enriching and reprocessing uranium and related activities and to cooperate fully with the IAEA. The IAEA inspectors have been in Iran looking at these programs, and we look forward to hearing from the Director General of the IAEA at the March board meeting and discussing the matter further at that time. But these raise serious concerns.

Q When you say, serious concerns, and you have a discovery like this, is it proof to the administration that Iran is not fully cooperating?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this is -- these are activities that were not previously declared. And the President, in his remarks last week at National Defense University, talked about how A.Q. Khan and his associates provided Iran with designs for Pakistan's older centrifuge, as well as designs for more advanced and efficient models. But again, we have serious concerns about reports that Iran is enriching uranium and possesses advanced centrifuge designs.

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Q Back on John's question, do you have any concerns about the deal with Japan and Russia are having with Iran right now?

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, this question came up previously, and I think that there have been certain reports -- there are certain statements that Japan has made in terms of Iran adhering to the NPT and its IAEA obligations that could affect such projects, and could affect their future relations.

Q So you're not worried about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I think Japan has stated that their future actions in regards to the NPT and in regards to the IAEA could affect those relations.

Q Do you take that as an assurance?

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