Press Briefing with State Department Deputy Spokesperson J. Adam Ereli on the IAEA Board of Governors Meeting (Excerpts)

August 9, 2005

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QUESTION: Anything on the IAEA meeting on Iran in Vienna?

MR. ERELI: As you know, the IAEA Board of Governors met today in Vienna. We heard statements from the member delegations with regard to the latest Iranian actions and decisions. I would note that there was widespread condemnation of Iran's decision to resume conversion activities and there were numerous calls for Iran to resume suspension of those activities, as provided for in the Paris agreements.

We continue to consult with our EU-3 partners as well as other members of the Board of Governors on next steps. I would expect a resolution to be introduced, perhaps tomorrow, based on the views we heard today.

Yes.

QUESTION: A U.S. resolution?

MR. ERELI: No.

QUESTION: A resolution?

MR. ERELI: A resolution.

QUESTION: Does Iran have to go back to its suspension, as it agreed with the Europeans, in order to avoid being referred to the Security Council?

MR. ERELI: I don't want to get ahead of discussions in Vienna. Let's look forward to discussions tomorrow. Those are issues that I think are under discussion. What's clear is I think a widespread view that we heard today by many members of the Board of Governors that Iran's resumption of conversion activities is regrettable and that there is a widespread view that adherence to the suspension is what the Board of Governors -- or many members of the Board of Governors would like to see.

Now, how that is operationalized in terms of a resolution or next steps, is being discussed in Vienna, and obviously, between us and our partners on the Board of Governors and in the international community.

Yes.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. pressing for a mention at least of the sanction, UN Security sanction, Security Council sanction, in this resolution?

MR. ERELI: The United States is pressing with its EU-3 partners and others who are concerned about Iranian action for Iranian adherence to previous agreements it's made, for transparency in the Iranian nuclear program and for Iran to answer outstanding questions that the IAEA has presented to it.

So I would -- again, as I tried to speak to you about yesterday, I would look at this issue as -- look at this issue in terms of the United States working together with the EU-3 and others to make it clear to Iran that the choice is Iran's to make and the choice is one between acting in accordance with international norms and standards and understandings, and those that don't raise concerns about its intentions, and that don't violate commitments that Iran has made -- that's choice number one; or, choice number two is to continue to engage in activity that the international community has said is dangerous, is threatening and raises questions about Iran's desire to be a responsible member of the international community. Those are the choices before Iran, and what we're trying to do in our diplomacy and in working with our partners is to help make it clear to Iran that they have an interest in choosing the path of transparency, disclosure and respect for the concerns of the rest of the international community.

QUESTION: Can you just make clear why you're not yet calling for Iran to be referred to the to the Security Council? Because you've always -- U.S. policy has been clear about the consequences of the choices and you have always said during these negotiations, which you supported, that if they fail then you want the Europeans and everyone else to back you referring them to the Security Council.

So is it that you actually think the talks haven't yet failed? They've rejected the offer, they've resumed their activities, but you still don't think those talks have failed, you think there's life in them yet?

MR. ERELI: We think that the EU presented a good proposal to Iran, that it's in Iran's interest to accept that proposal and to negotiate with -- and to negotiate and work with the Europeans on the basis of that proposal and to continue the suspension on activity.

At the same time, one should not read into what we're saying any change in our policy on this and any change in our view that violations of NPT-required safeguards obligations is a matter that should be referred to the Security Council.

We are, as I said earlier, working with the Europeans, working with the other members of the Board of Governors, to fashion a response that fully reflects the concerns of the international community, sends a strong message about the importance of reestablishing suspension on uranium conversion and on fully cooperating with the IAEA, and has the best chance of producing that result.

There are a variety of elements to that approach, but I don't, at this point, want to get into detail about what those elements are. Let's let the diplomats in Vienna and in capitals work it and then we can talk about it more fully once it's out on the table.

QUESTION: Well, just as a follow-up, on working with capitals, the new president of Iran has said he has new ideas. Is this all- do you see this as all part of a bargaining/negotiating strategy or -- you don't seem to be taking it as the final word.

MR. ERELI: I think what's become clearest or -- certainly in today's meetings with -- in Vienna and -- is that, again, there's a clear choice and there's a clear dividing line. The choice and dividing line are either: play fast and loose with international agreements and pursue programs that are of concern to the international community, or; address what everybody says is a problem, come clean and act like a responsible member of the international community and of an international organization under which you have obligations to be open and transparent, and which so far they haven't shown themselves to be.

QUESTION: The new president says he has new ideas. Are you willing to listen?

MR. ERELI: You know, we've got the -- the opportunity is now and the concerns of the international community are clear and so are what the international communities are asking Iran to do. So I think what the international community expects of Iran is very explicit and it doesn't take a nuclear scientist to figure what they need to do.

Yes.

QUESTION: Maybe just to understand more what you're doing. Yesterday, you said that they --

MR. ERELI: No, just a journalist. (Laugher.)

QUESTION: Yeah, well, okay. I'm only a journalist, not a nuclear scientist. Yesterday you said they had thumbed their nose at this EU proposal. But tell me if I'm wrong: It looks today as if you're saying but we're giving them a chance to change their mind.

MR. ERELI: What was -- the views that were expressed in the Board of Governors meeting was that -- was a desire to see Iran resume suspension of the -- resume suspension of nuke conversion activity. That's important. And if there's a way to put this genie back in the bottle, great. But again, I think as I said to your colleague, the choice is clear and it's Iran's to make.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that. It seems that maybe Iran has already made its choice. I mean, for the last couple of weeks, the last several months, we've been hearing from West -- from Germany, from France, from Britain, that if they resume nuclear conversion activities, that this will go to the Security Council. We heard that from the United States. What more can be said now that can deter them from doing what they're doing than you've already said?

MR. ERELI: I don't want to speak for Britain and France and Germany. I think they've spoken very clearly yesterday, they spoke very clearly today at the Board of Governors meeting, that this is a regrettable step, this is a step of concern, that Iran needs to take actions to show its commitment to the -- to its international agreements and that that's what the international community is looking for. As far as what follows from that, that will be discussed at the Board of Governors meeting.

QUESTION: Well, my question was why should Iran take that seriously, since after hearing for several months that they will be taken before the UN Security Council, they're not. Why should they take anything else seriously now?

MR. ERELI: Iran should -- any country that is the subject of repeated Board of Governors -- critical Board of Governors resolutions and the subject of concerted international diplomacy, I think should take the consequences of flaunting the will of the international community and calling into question its sincerity toward international agreements, should take the consequences of those actions seriously.

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QUESTION: Iran says that it has improved its range and accuracy of its Shahab-3 missile from 1,800-kilometers to 2,000-kilometers. It also says that if U.S. and Israel attack its nuclear facilities, Tehran would halt its international cooperation on its nuclear development. Do you consider this a threat?

MR. ERELI: I haven't seen those remarks.

QUESTION: This was delivered by their defense minister, outgoing defense minister.

MR. ERELI: Yeah, well, like I said, I haven't seen those remarks. The issue is not one of attacking or not attacking. The issue is one of clandestinely developing nuclear weapons capability and a very clear message from the IAEA and the international community that this is a program of concern and offering Iran a way out of the box that they've put -- or walked themselves into, or the corner that they've walked themselves into.

As far as the missile program goes, I don't have anything -- any new assessment or new reaction to the Iranian missile program to share with you, other than to reiterate our longstanding concern that Iran has both -- has development programs both for nuclear weapons and delivery systems that are troubling, that are threatening and that, I think, inform our policy of trying to contain a threat and marshal international support for that. And what we're seeing is that that policy is gaining a lot of ground and, I think, producing a lot of consensus.

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QUESTION: Back on Iran's nuclear program. You've probably made six references to the international community thus far. Who besides the U.S. and the EU-3 are exercised about what the Iranians are up to?

MR. ERELI: I think if you look at -- there are numerous other members of the Board of Governors who expressed concern about what Iran's decisions and the importance of Iran resuming suspension -- that's number one.

Number two, I think, you know, if you look at, for example, what Russia has done in terms of altering its approach to Iran's nuclear program, you see a very important member of the international community that had once -- I think, that had once had a certain position on Iran's nuclear program that, in response to Iranian actions, in response to international community concerns, has now recognized the proliferation potential of Iran, has taken into account the broad skepticism about Iranian intentions based on its pattern of deception and obfuscation and, as result, has concluded a closed fuel cycle agreement with Iran on Bushehr.

I mean, these are all indications that this is not just, you know, as many want to portray it, a U.S. versus Iran issue, but is, rather, a widely shared concern about a persistent pattern of deception that raises questions about intentions.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you then believe that this resolution that you expect to be introduced tomorrow will get more support than previous attempts to gather the necessary consensus for such a resolution?

MR. ERELI: I'm not going to make any predictions. I think that what we're seeing is a -- especially in -- you know, especially in the EU-3 initiative, what we're seeing is a growing recognition that, despite every opportunity to the contrary, Iran persists in pursuing a program and activity that contravene international understandings and what the international community view as responsible behavior.

QUESTION: Adam, what do you say, though, to the argument that many people believe you are not actually following through on what's U.S. policy of referring to the Security Council yet because while this consensus is growing, it hasn't grown enough to actually get enough support on the Board for that referral because, as Teri is alluding to, in the past their behavior of all this deception that you've cited so often wasn't enough for people to think they deserve to go to the Security Council for that?

MR. ERELI: We'll keep at it.

QUESTION: Is that an acknowledgement that you have to keep at it because you don't yet have enough support on the Board to take them to the Council yet?

MR. ERELI: I think it's an acknowledgement that dealing with Iran is a multilateral effort and the best way to manage this issue is to ensure as broad and firm a consensus as possible.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. ERELI: A follow-up.

QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Ereli, why Iran must not have nuclear stuff and other countries must have such -- United States of America, Israel, India, Pakistan, et cetera, et cetera. There is a list. Why you do not follow a universal policy of none, period?

MR. ERELI: I think our views on nonproliferation and nuclear power are well known. I would also say that, you know, in the case -- people ask for comparisons all the time. We dealt with this a lot yesterday. There are international treaties. There are international obligations. We expect those treaties and obligations to be complied with. And when they're not, we take the actions, together with our partners, that we think are appropriate and necessary.

Each case is different. The history, the circumstances and the history and considerations in each case are different. With regard to Iran, we are, given where they are in the program, given what they've said they're going to do and what they actually do, we believe that the approach that we're taking is the most effective and appropriate one.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) this strategy is very detrimental to everyone. Why you do not follow a universal policy of none, period. Why?

MR. ERELI: I think we have universal principles that we follow that are enshrined in international agreements and international obligations and international practice, and that based on those principles, we apply them to each case and manage our diplomacy consistent with the principles, consistent with international standards, and recognizing the unique circumstances of each case. Thank you.

Yes.

QUESTION: Same subject, broadly. What can you say about the Dutch ex-prime minister's claims that the U.S. Government asked in '75 and again in the '80s not to have A.Q. Khan prosecuted and to allow him to go on so that he could be tracked?

MR. ERELI: I don't have any comment on that.

QUESTION: Is it just because you didn't prepare any or you're not going to?

MR. ERELI: Both. I saw the report, looked at it. It's not something that I feel we really have anything to say about.

QUESTION: Why not?

MR. ERELI: Because it deals with -- (a) it deals with events long in the past; (b) it deals with intelligence matters; (c) for those reasons, I don't have anything to say about it.

QUESTION: Well, I mean you're talking about consistent practices. This would seem to fall out of line a bit.

MR. ERELI: Okay.

QUESTION: Okay.

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