Press Briefing with State Department Deputy Spokesperson J. Adam Ereli on Iran and the U.N. Security Council (Excerpts)

September 21, 2005

. . .

QUESTION: Hold on, we got a mystery here. The U.S. wants Iran's nuclear -- did the Iran nuclear issue taken the Security Council and yet it would seem you don't have the votes to do anything there. What is it exactly you want the Council to do or do you simply want it referred and on the docket and available for possible future action? What are you talking about?

MR. ERELI: No mystery here, Barry.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: The international community wants Iran to be clear about what it's doing, to be transparent, to stop pursuing a nuclear weapons program under the guise of a civilian nuclear program and wants Iran to take actions that respond to the concerns of the IAEA Board of Governors, as expressed in his last Board of Governors resolution in August 11th where it notes that Iran has undertaken a number of activities inconsistent with its NPT obligations, asks for answers to those questions and has not yet received them. And there is no mystery in what the EU-3 wants Iran to do and what the rest of the international community supports the EU-3 in looking to Iran for which is a suspension of its enrichment-related activity and a resumption of negotiations with the EU-3.

Look, the way forward for Iran is clear and I think the consensus of the international community is clear. Stop deceiving the international community, come clean, be transparent, address the concerns or face referral. And that's what our diplomacy is geared to accomplishing in cooperation with the EU-3 who are the most directly and immediately aggrieved party as a result of Iran's unilaterally breaking its agreement and its cooperation in negotiating with them. And that's what's being discussed at the IAEA Board of Governors. And I think what we can expect is building a broad consensus on the way forward on seeing Iran behave like a responsible state and respond to the concerns of the international community or face referral.

QUESTION: There's nothing new in what you've said about how the U.S. says the world looks at Iran. What is new if it is, indeed, what is going on. The stories from Vienna say the U.S. wants this issue referred to the Security Council.

MR. ERELI: That's not --

QUESTION: You're speaking as if the U.S. wants either Iran to change its ways or face referral. Do you want referral or don't you now and, if you do, what do you want the Council to do?

MR. ERELI: Yeah. Look, the United States' position on the issue of referral as a matter of principle is clear, that when there are violations of the NPT they should be referred. So that's a position of principle that there's no change on. On the question of timing, I would say that's an issue of tactics rather than strategy. The strategy, the goal, the objective that we are all seeking is an Iran that does not continue to use a nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons. And an element of that is referral to the Security Council. Our diplomacy, that is something that is being discussed, that is something that is being considered, that is definitely something that is on the table, out there as a means to accomplish an end. And I would simply -- I would look at it that way.

And I think -- the other point to make here is you're frankly rehashing points and I'm repeating ideas that have been much more articulately on a fair (inaudible) to be put forward by the Secretary in her many -- and Under Secretary Burns -- in their many interventions in New York over the past couple of days. So that's why I would sort of just take you away from the new --

QUESTION: We understand. We heard everything they said. We understand the U.S. position. It is very clear.

MR. ERELI: Good.

QUESTION: Iran is bad. Everybody agrees they're bad. The question, which maybe you've answered, apart from the rhetoric about how bad they are and all of the above and what you'd like them to do to correct their ways, the question is are you taking Iran to the Security Council now or is that a tactic that's under consideration?

MR. ERELI: Well, let's look at what's happening in Vienna today. Iran is being discussed at the IAEA Board of Governors. It has been an agenda item that was dealt with today. The EU-3 is circulating a draft resolution to deal with this issue. As I said, they are the most immediately and directly aggrieved party, although I think the international system recognizes that Iran's activities pose an unacceptable challenge to the integrity of international treaties and our common interests. But the EU-3, as the most directly and immediately aggrieved party, is putting forward its resolution.

There are discussion among the members of the board on that resolution and it's being considered. We are supportive of the EU-3 position and we are working with them to build a broad consensus on achieving our common objectives, which may well include a referral, if not now, perhaps later. But which in the end is going to accomplish what we all want to see, which is an Iran that is not thumbing its nose at the international community and engaging in the kind of confrontation and deception which is of growing concern to all of us. So that's the way I'd put it.

QUESTION: Can I squeeze in one more? I'm overdoing this maybe, but on Friday's new conference a week before last, the Secretary of State openly appealed to Russia, China, India -- and she said other nations -- to join in sending an international message, a unified message to Iran. Subsequently Russia said we don't want to go to the Council now. President Bush didn't get a commitment from the Chinese President in New York to go to the Council now. India seemed to be not inclined to act now either. Do you have the votes in the UN to avoid a veto and to impose your policies, yours and the European Union's, on Iran?

MR. ERELI: It's not -- I'd really urge you to look at the question differently. This is not an issue of the United States imposing its view about Iran on everybody else. This is a question of, I think, a growing international consensus that what Iran is doing is dangerous, is troublesome and has very negative implications for the integrity of international regimes in the international system. And that what we're seeing is a growing consensus around that. Why? Because more and more countries are recognizing that Iran has engaged in systematic deception over a long period of time.

Two, because Iran has been consistently stiffing international organizations in their requests for information about their program. And three, the rhetoric of the Iranian regime is very confrontational and does not come anywhere near addressing what are the concerns of the international community. So when you take all that together, it's not a question of the United States saying Iran is bad and getting everybody to buy into that. It's a question of recognizing an existing reality, which is a country that is bent on flouting international regimes, flouting international norms and pursuing dangerous technology that is contrary to everybody's interest.

Yes.

QUESTION: When you say the international community is one voice in sense that Iran should come clean and saying it should be referred quickly to the UN Security Council, does this include Russia and China?

MR. ERELI: I'm not going to speak for other countries. I would say that --

QUESTION: When you say international community.

MR. ERELI: I'm not going to speak for the specific positions of specific countries on specific questions. What I would say is that in our discussions with our Security Council partners, in our discussion with our allies, in our discussions with members of the IAEA Board of Governors, what's clear to us is that there is a growing sense of concern about Iran's nuclear activities and about its failure to be responsive to the reports of and the findings of the IAEA Board of Governors. That -- there is a clear, I think, trend line.

I would also note that, you know, as evidence of that concern, you have different countries taking different actions on their own. I mean you speak about Russia, let's be clear -- the fact that Russia as a closed fuel deal with Iran with respect to Bushehr, is a clear indication that they've got concerns, that they buy into the notion that Iran is up to no good and for that reason they're controlling how that fuel is processed and handled. If that wasn't a problem for them, they wouldn't be doing that. So, you know, you have to look at it in its totality and not with respect to any specific point in time.

I think that as we go forward, obviously, you know, as part of the diplomatic process you're going to have different countries with different positions on different aspects of the issue. But I think looking at it as a whole, looking at it in the broad sense, Iran is finding itself more and more isolated as a result of its own actions.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Adam, what is your understanding of what the -- in a strict procedural sense is necessary for there to be a referral to the United Nations Security Council out of the Board of Governors?

MR. ERELI: You know, frankly, I just -- the best place to look for that is the regulations in the NPT. But in many respects, it's a technical issue that when you have -- in any agreements when there are violations, they are to be reported. So in our view, it's a question of basically not if, but when.

QUESTION: So if the NPT holds its violators as a matter of procedure are to be reported, then is this exercise with the Board of Governors in the American view extraneous somehow or?

MR. ERELI: No, not at all. I mean, the American view, and I've tried to explain it, is that what's important.

QUESTION: Procedure only.

MR. ERELI: Rather than -- you're focusing on the tree rather than the forest. I can't speak to the procedure. I don't have that sort of the rules of parliamentary procedure - Robert Rules of Order. I will tell you that as a matter of principle, the provisions of the treaty should be applied. I can't get -- I don't know the details, procedural details to speak to your question. But again, I would bring it around to the larger question and the larger question is you've got a country that is violating its commitments under international agreements that is not being responsive to the concerns of the international community and that there's a growing consensus that action should be taken in response to that behavior. How that plays out is a function of our diplomacy. Our goal is to build the broadest possible consensus. And one or the other, this I think will be dealt with by a community of like-minded states.

QUESTION: The only reason I ask is because you've continually talked about building a consensus and I wondered if that is what your understanding is of what is necessary for you to achieve or is it your understanding that at the Board of Governors you need to achieve a strict majority or unanimity to trigger the --

MR. ERELI: Oh, procedurally it could go -- you don't have to have consensus. Procedurally you could do it by a vote.

QUESTION: A vote of?

MR. ERELI: Majority.

QUESTION: Of the Board of Governors?

MR. ERELI: Yeah.

QUESTION: All right. And could not, as a Security Council member of the United States, simply bring up the issue su esponte of its own, without going through the Board of Governors at all?

MR. ERELI: I'll put it this way. There are a variety of ways to deal with this issue. Our approach and our decisions on how we deal with it are based on a couple of principles and those are principles which I've tried to lay out for you. Principle number one, is that this is an issue that concerns the international community and, therefore, the best way to deal with this is as a community of nations, adversely affected by Iranian behavior and actions. And so in moving forward, we're going to try to stick to that principle.

Right now that principle or the way we're applying that principle is working together with the EU-3. I mean, they're the ones that entered in negotiations with the Iranians to try to deal with this. We will -- it was important that they did that to send a clear message to the international community that this wasn't just about the United States, but it was about others as well. So they were doing the negotiations. They will help try to bring Iran around to acting responsibly and giving Iran an opportunity to make good and change course. And Iran basically slammed the door in their face.

So in responding to the matter at hand, which is Iran's enrichment-related activity, as well as a host of unanswered IAEA questions, you've got, I think a concerted multilateral process, an initiative underway, which is the EU-3 process. In which a large number of states -- (inaudible) of which a large number of states are coalescing. That's a good thing. That shows that this is a matter between Iran and the rest of the international community and not just between Iran and the United States or whatever.

So as we move forward, I think that's the approach that we're following.

QUESTION: From the length of that answer, I'll presume that time is not an urgent factor in these negotiations? I mean do you assert time to be a factor in this? Do you assert urgency in this or you're just working to build a consensus with an open-ended timetable?

MR. ERELI: Again, there is -- how to put it -- I mean, nobody wants Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. And I think our sense of timing is we've got to act in a responsible way that doesn't allow that to happen and sometimes it takes time to build a consensus. You can't -- your approach is more effective if it's a multilateral approach that has the broadest possible buy-in, but at the same time I think that our persistence and sense of importance is guided by the seriousness of the issue at hand, which is nuclear proliferation.

QUESTION: So it is not going to the Security Council now -- now, now?

MR. ERELI: I'm not going to make predictions.

QUESTION: You can't --

MR. ERELI: Today? I don't have anything to announce to you today.

QUESTION: For months -- this is, you know, getting a little strange -- for months, months and months, you folks up there have been saying that the meeting of the IAEA Board of Directors would trigger action to force, to censure or to impose sanctions on Iran. The Board of Governors has met and, in fact --

MR. ERELI: Is meeting.

QUESTION: Is meeting and stories are coming out of there that the U.S. is asking for this to be referred to the Security Council.

MR. ERELI: Well, I can't speak to the stories. I can -- I told you what is happening, which is that there is a draft resolution put forward --

QUESTION: Right . . .

MR. ERELI: -- that that draft resolution is being discussed. I can't speak to what's in the draft resolution. And that as the Secretary has said, one way or the other, this issue is going to be dealt with. One way or the other Iran's going to come to its senses and if not now then later.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Adam, throughout all this, in news reports we're talking about a paralysis in Europe with the EU constitution perhaps being on hold from two to three years and, of course, the outcome of the German election maybe that leaves a void temporarily. And you've consistently looked at Iran separately from what's gone on with the six-party talks with Korea. Ambassador Hill, for instance --

MR. ERELI: Okay, what's the point?

QUESTION: The point is if the IAEA is (inaudible), as Barry has pointed out, has the final say, shouldn't it be just left to them as to what should come next or a UN body?

MR. ERELI: Well, the Board of Governors is going to be the one who decides the immediate next step. The EU-3, as members of that board, are putting forward their suggestions for those next steps. So it's entirely consistent that the international community, through the IAEA Board of Governors, is going to act in response to Iranian practices which they view of concern. So I don't see where the confusion is.

QUESTION: But what Iran is perhaps doing is not necessarily through governments; it might be through a black market and obviously it could be with the help of AQ Khan and his network.

MR. ERELI: Well, obviously the IAEA is not the sole entity to combat proliferation. They have a role in the nonproliferation regime, but it's not exclusive and there are other efforts and other institutions and other means of cooperation to prevent proliferation. I would simply cite the Proliferation Security Initiative as one example. But, you know, clearly the fact that the IAEA is moving in this direction, shows that Iran's actions are something that a growing number of nations view as problematic and I think are acting increasingly resolutely to deal with.

Yes.

QUESTION: Iranian officials are saying that they are deaf to language of threat. Do you think if the IAEA or the EU and U.S. become more conciliatory will Iran they might change their views and go back to the negotiating table?

MR. ERELI: You know, I would just say look at the facts. And the facts are that there was an initiative taken by the EU-3, that there were commitments made by Iran, that Iran broke those commitments and walked away from the path of negotiation and discussion. So if you look at the record and you look at who did what, it seems to us pretty clear where the different parties stand in terms of working in good faith to solve this problem.

Yes, ma'am. You had a question. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. On the Russians, you said just earlier that they do obviously buy into the notion that Iran is trouble.

MR. ERELI: Yeah.

QUESTION: But they're not in favor of this draft resolution that's circulating, so I'm just wondering how the U.S. and the EU are approaching the Russians on this and whether, you know, how crucial they are in referral.

MR. ERELI: Like I said earlier, we want to -- we, the EU-3 and the United States, want to build a broad consensus on Iran. And we're starting from a common foundation or we're starting from a common position that, look, this is a problem. This is something we need to deal with. Iran needs to come clean. And how -- what actions we take to accomplish that objective is, again, something that's a matter of discussion. I wouldn't, you know, on any given day there are different statements on the issue by different countries. I would just say that our perspective on this is a little bit broader, a little bit more long-term than sort of the daily exchange of statements.

QUESTION: Is that the U.S. strategy in approaching the Russians at all?

MR. ERELI: I think there is a -- we have met with the Russians. We have met with others. We have, I think, been working very consistently to, as I said, build a consensus. I think we've made -- you've seen a significant evolution in the international community's understanding of and appreciation for the problems posed by Iran's program and Iran's activities. And I think that that kind of consensus will grow. That kind of consensus will be built upon and that you will see increasingly concerted international action in response in the future. Now, what one country does on any given day, I can't speak to. But that's our broad approach, that's our broad objective.

Yeah. Anything else on this subject? Anything else to talk about? Yes.

QUESTION: Adam, you've just released what's called the 2007 Diversity Visa Lottery Registration -- it's a large packet. And there were a lot of concerns especially you've listed a diversity of countries that once people are here, have gone through a university are perhaps working in engineering and scientific pursuits, that the green card which typically was a period of about five years, is going to suddenly be switched to maybe 10 or 15 years. A lot of people are going to be forced to pack up and return to the countries they've come from. What --

MR. ERELI: No. That's not -- that's not the way it works.

QUESTION: So there are no changes? That's the fear.

MR. ERELI: I'll check and see, but I don't think there's anything different this year than in past years. And the university visa program is an opportunity to bring countries -- to make coming to America open to countries that are not as advantaged as other countries in terms of immigration statistics and it's a lottery. So the procedures and criteria and rules governing the program, I don't believe have changed in any way.

QUESTION: Thank you.

. . .