Press Briefing with State Department Acting Spokesperson Tom Casey on Uranium Conversion at Isfahan (Excerpts)

August 1, 2005

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • Iran

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QUESTION: Iran has informed the IAEA that it plans to restart converting yellow cake in Isfahan, at its Isfahan facility. Any reaction to this? Does this mean that they've abrogated the Paris Agreement if, in fact, they do this?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think where we are is very much supportive of what the UK said in its foreign office statement yesterday: "Resuming uranium conversion work would be an unnecessary and damaging step by Iran." That's what they said in their statement and we concur with it. The UK has urged Iran not to take any unilateral steps, which would contravene the Paris Agreement and make it more difficult to continue with the negotiations. And France and Germany have also called for a public continuation of the negotiations and a continuation of the suspension.

I think you've seen comments from IAEA Director General ElBaradei, who's also asked that negotiations with the EU continue and called on Iran not to take any actions that might prejudice the process at this point. Obviously, we're continuing to be in touch both with the IAEA and the EU-3. And we continue to support the EU-3's efforts to resolve the issue through diplomacy, but that will require full implementation of the November 2004 Paris Agreement, which requires suspension of all nuclear fuel cycle activities, specifically including uranium conversion activity.

Yes. Peter.

QUESTION: Can I follow-up on that, Tom?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Tom, I mean, Tom, we're not talking words here, we're talking actions. The Iranians have gone to the plant. They're removing the seals there. What point are you saying -- will you say that they have taken those actions that are in breach of those agreements and warrant going a bit further?

MR. CASEY: Peter, our policy on this has been clear. If Iran does follow through on its threat to break the suspension, we'll be working with the EU-3 and others as a first step and we'll be consulting with the IAEA Board of Governors after that. But as you know, our position has long been that should that occur, that Iran should then be reported to the UN Security Council.

QUESTION: Right, but my question was is that -- the actions they've taken up to now, do they constitute a breach or they aren't in breach yet?

MR. CASEY: Peter, I'm not really in a position to try and parse for you some of the specifics. Again, I think the Paris Agreement makes clear what Iran's obligations are. We expect Iran to honor those obligations to maintain their commitments under the agreement. And if they don't, again, we will then be working with our EU-3 partners and the IAEA Board on what the next steps ought to be.

Yeah. Elise.

QUESTION: The Secretary (inaudible) diplomacy, it looks as if the Iranians are looking for the Europeans to sweeten their deal on a comprehensive package for them to give up any uranium enrichment or any type of production of nuclear energy for a weapon -- for what we claim is a weapons program. Are you -- is the United States supportive of enhancing the deals? Are there more negotiations to be done or are you against offering Iran any new inducements?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, Elise, I'm not going to speak for the EU-3 or for their diplomacy. I'm going to let them do that. We have been supportive of their negotiations and of the process that they've done, but that process and what we're supposed -- what it's supposed to lead to is made very clear in the Paris Agreement. That's what we're working off of. That's what the EU-3 is working off of. And we would expect that any arrangements made would get to the end point desired by that agreement.

Yes. Saul.

QUESTION: Can I follow-up?

MR. CASEY: Sure, (inaudible) follow-up.

QUESTION: Can I follow-up? The Paris Agreement always took into consideration that there would be a kind of comprehensive deal. This was, you know, a kind of initial agreement for a suspension and then there was going to be negotiations for a final deal. So, are you supportive of expanding the scope of the discussions in order to kind of reach this comprehensive deal?

MR. CASEY: Again, we're supportive of the EU-3's efforts to reach a comprehensive deal
in accordance with the Paris Accords, but I'm not going to try and do their diplomacy for them or outline their proposals or discussions.

Yeah, Teri.

QUESTION: So does that mean -- Tom, the Secretary recently reiterated in the Post interview that the EU-3 and the U.S. are on the same page with regard to this diplomatic effort, even though you're not doing their diplomacy for them. Does that mean that there is not a gap between what the U.S. wants with regard to a potential civilian nuclear program and what the EU is willing to accept?

MR. CASEY: Again, I think we're very much on the same page in terms of the goals of these negotiations with the EU-3. I know Under Secretary Burns has been in touch with his EU-3 counterparts today. We're discussing and working this issue with them all the time. Again, though, I would look for them to talk and describe about the proposals they have or will put forward.

QUESTION: What's the U.S. view that -- on civilian nuclear power in Iran.

MR. CASEY: Well, our -- again, our view is that there's got to be full implementation with the 2004 Paris Agreement and that that includes not only currently suspension of all nuclear fuel cycle activities, but ultimately, a full and complete cessation of those.

Sorry. Saul.

QUESTION: You do know -- you know that the -- you're saying that you know that Iran has sent a letter saying that it will break the seals. Do you know that they have actually gone ahead and broken the seals or is that something that you're still looking at?

MR. CASEY: I don't. I don't, Saul. There's a lot of back and forth on this. Right before I came out, I saw a wire saying that the Iranians had now said they would wait several days before doing so. I'd leave it to the IAEA to talk about what the exact situation is with the seals. Again, though, you know, I just want to reiterate the point that we do view this issue very seriously and we do believe as the UK Foreign Office said yesterday, that resuming any kind of conversion work would be an unnecessary and damaging step.

QUESTION: Can I ask you on something else or we still --

MR. CASEY: Are we still on Iran?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CASEY: Okay. Sylvie.

QUESTION: Don't you think that if you are on the same page as the EU-3, does it mean that you won't go to the Security Council as long as they ask you to be patient?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think that the EU-3 has made its position clear and it's the same thing as ours. Certainly, if, you know, they follow through on their threats to break the suspension, we'd need to consult with them and the other IAEA Board of Governor members. But again, our longstanding position has been should that occur, the next step ought to be that Iran should then be reported to the Security Council.

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