Press Briefing with State Department Deputy Spokesperson J. Adam Ereli on Iranian Decision to End Uranium Enrichment (Excerpts)

August 8, 2005

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

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QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Iranian decision to end the suspension on uranium enrichment?

MR. ERELI: The International Atomic Energy Agency this morning informed IAEA member states that Iran has reintroduced nuclear material into its Isfahan uranium conversion facility. Obviously, this would represent a breach of the November 2004 Paris agreement with the EU-3 in which Iran pledged to suspend its enrichment-related fuel cycle activities, including any uranium conversion tests or production. I would note that the British and the French have made public statements expressing their concern about this development. I would also note that there is an IAEA Board of Governors meeting tomorrow. We will be consulting closely with our EU-3 colleagues in advance of that meeting about how we should respond to this action and appropriate next steps.

The important thing to remember in all of this is that the EU-3 provided Iran with a very good proposal for dealing with this problem. We support that proposal. We were hopeful that they would be able to have talks in August. It appears that Iran has rejected that proposal and we will be working with -- we'll continue to work with the EU-3 in support of efforts to get this process back on track.

QUESTION: You don't want to characterize it?

MR. ERELI: Characterize what?

QUESTION: You don't want to characterize the Iranian move?

MR. ERELI: It's a violation of the Paris agreements. It's something that we said we didn't want to see. And it's something that we and the international community will be responding to.

QUESTION: You said, "get the process back on track." Does that mean that the focus is still to get the negotiations with the EU-3 going, as opposed to taking them to the Security Council?

MR. ERELI: I think the focus is on addressing a program which is of concern to the international community because it is characterized by deception and obfuscation and what we need to do as a, again, as a collective is to prevent Iran from using its nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, Adam, you say "deception" but apparently there was a Reuters reporter right on the scene who saw two workers feeding yellow cake right into a --

MR. ERELI: I was referring to 20 years of clandestine nuclear activity.

Yes.

QUESTION: Adam, the United States has been very clear that once the seals were broken that the next move would be to the Security Council. Can you confirm that or do you see any other options at this point?

MR. ERELI: Well, I think our position on referral is well known. And what I would say in response to this latest development is that we will be conferring with our EU-3 and other Board of Governor colleagues about what, you know, what is the appropriate step to take in response to what's happened and how we can effectively address the concerns of the international community.

QUESTION: Do you expect end process of that was going to be referred to the UN, though?

MR. ERELI: I don't want to predict an outcome of what will happen and when, other than to stress, once again, that this is a -- this is basically, in rejecting the EU-3 offer and taking this step, this is Iran thumbing its nose at a productive approach by the EU-3 and we'll have to work together to take response.

QUESTION: Can we change the subject?

MR. ERELI: Changing the subject.

QUESTION: It's said that Iranian President wants to participate in the next UN General Assembly in New York. Are you willing to issue a visa for him, knowing the fact that he was a leader of the student Iranian movement, which organized hostages killing?

MR. ERELI: We've received a request for a visa. We're reviewing that request, obviously bearing in mind our responsibilities under the Headquarters Agreement, also taking into consideration previous activities with respect to hostage-taking.

QUESTION: Well, so, can you say definitively then that your investigation into whether the president was a member of the -- or was one of the perpetrators of the actual hostage-taking will have an effect on whether you issue him a visa?

MR. ERELI: It's obviously something that is relevant to the decision being made.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, do you have anything on the --

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Anything more on this?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. ERELI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, in that vein there, the only reports that we've had is that so far no evidence has been turned up to support the claim of the five hostages. Have you turned up new evidence that would support the claim that the president was indeed involved in hostage-taking?

MR. ERELI: What's been said is the president was a student leader and involved in the events. What hasn't been determined is was he actually a hostage-taker and at the scene of the -- and at the scene, as some hostages have said. We certainly take those concerns seriously. We are looking into them. I'm not aware that there's been -- we've been able to determine what the factual basis is. We continue to look at that and we continue to -- we, as well as other parts of the U.S. Government, continue to look at that and continue to try to come to some factual closure on it.

Yes.

QUESTION: What has the hostage-taking, or any concerns that you have about him, got to to with this visa? Because you have an obligation to allow him to go to a UN meeting. There's plenty of people who aren't your friends who go to those meetings -- Castro being one. Why is this an issue?

MR. ERELI: Well, this is -- again, I don't want to -- I want to have this -- how shall I put it? I don't want to talk about our consultations and our deliberations on this issue, make it a public discussion. I will say that we have -- we are mindful of Headquarters Agreements responsibilities. We also take very seriously information that someone has been involved in hostage-taking of American citizens, in contravention of international law and international practice, and that certainly is a relevant consideration in the matter at hand.

Yes.

QUESTION: I have two questions. First of all, Mr. Ahmadinejad. So is there a possibility that you will deny a visa eventually?

MR. ERELI: We are reviewing the application.

QUESTION: Okay. Second question about Iran. Since July 9th, Iranian Kurdish area has been the scene of some violent demonstrations. People are demonstrating against the killing of a political activist. Iranian Government is said to have used helicopter gunships and all kinds of, you know, tools to crack down on the demonstrators. What is the --

MR. ERELI: This is in Iran?

QUESTION: Yes, this is still on Iran. And they have asked for the international community for help -- the Kurdish activists and organizations. What is the U.S. response for this call?

MR. ERELI: Honestly, I'm not informed enough about the activities that you ask about to give you a good answer. Let me see if I can find out: (a) what we know about the activity; and (b) what, if any, our response is to an appeal that -- from Iran that I haven't heard about. But, you know, just as a placeholder -- well, I'll just leave it at that.

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QUESTION: Going back to the visa issue, is there a precedent? Or rather, to just get some background, has any other head of state been denied a visa going to a UN meeting in New York?

MR. ERELI: I'll check the record books and see what we can come up with.

QUESTION: If I could follow up on the North Korean talks. It is very clear that the United States doesn't trust North Korea to even have civilian nuclear capacity, for fear that they will use that to produce nuclear weapons. At the same time, the United States just signed off on an offer to Iran that actually would allow them to retain a nuclear capacity, although the United States also suspects that they're not trustworthy and they're developing nuclear weapons.

My question is why are you willing to trust the Iranians and not the North Koreans?

MR. ERELI: I'll make a couple of points to this. One, I would encourage you, when writing about this, not to refer to it as the "U.S. versus North Korea" or "U.S. versus Iran". I think if you look at both the substance and the forum of how we're approaching both issues, they are multilateral. We've got five -- we've got six parties involved in the six-party talks. It's not two, it's six -- with North Korea.

With Iran, we've got -- we talked about the EU-3, so that's at least three, plus us, plus the Board of Governors, plus the IAEA. So when we're talking about responses to threats, it's important to note: (a) that there's a shared perception of threat by the region with respect to North Korean, by the international community with respect to Iran and that there is a common approach to dealing with that threat, through six-party talks, through the EU-3 and multilateral diplomacy there, and the IAEA Board of Governors and international institutions. So that's point one, all right.

Point number two, when talking about, you know, why are you doing this with North Korea and why are you doing this with Iran, and blah, blah, blah. I guess the short answer is, the two cases are different, therefore, the approaches are different. The substance of the programs, the substance of the policies are not the same, therefore, you're not going to have -- you're not going to deal with them in the same way.

There are, obviously, I think some common aspects but there are aspects of the issues that differentiate them. But clearly, in both, there's a -- you know, there's a severe confidence deficit in the sense that, you know, as we've made clear with North Korea, they have taken civilian facilities and converted and used them for military purposes. That's a problem that certainly informs our approach to the issue today. Iran has, in our view, used a civilian nuclear program to clandestinely development nuclear weapons. That's a problem that informs our approach to the issue today. But, you know, within that broad sort of generalities, there are specific and important differences and distinctions that lead us to approach the problem differently.

QUESTION: What are -- what is the differentiating -- you said there's different -- there is a difference and therefore has a different approach. Why -- what's the difference that determines, in one case, you rule out civilian nuclear reactors and in another you allow it in principle?

MR. ERELI: Well, look, as far as the EU-3 proposal -- we've, you know, for us with respect to Iran, our view is that we are against any nuclear fuel cycle activity, period. And first things first, look, Iran has repeatedly hidden from and misinformed and provided wrong information, false information to the international community about its nuclear program. And until there's a level of clarity, a level of transparency, and a level of actually making commitments that they follow through on, you know, these other issues, I think are -- it's premature to talk about. I think I'd answer the question that way.

QUESTION: Well, how --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) say about (inaudible) --

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: So which is it? You're trying to have - it seems to me you're trying to have it both ways. There's a multilateral approach for both but they're different?

MR. ERELI: Yes. I don't see an inconsistency there.

QUESTION: Well, you said there was --

MR. ERELI: Look, you've got two different problems. Both of them the international community sees as -- both of them involve weaponization of nuclear materials. Both of them are a threat to the international community. Both of them are at different -- but each of them is at a different stage and each country has taken different actions.

At the same time, they're both a threat, the international community is both concerned about them, and the international community has decided that the best way to deal with them is collectively, through multilateral diplomacy, to make the point that: (a) these countries stand to lose more than they gain by pursuing these programs; and (b) offering a better alternative, an alternative that involves denuclearization, that involves transparency, verification and offers a way to integrate those countries productively into the international community, which is where they aren't now.

So maybe that helps to tie it all together for you.

QUESTION: Well, one thing you said is that each is a different stage. Is that the key, that North Korea has actually already developed weapons?

MR. ERELI: Well, that is a -- obviously, that's an important factor in how you deal with the problem.

QUESTION: But is it the explanation for why you're dealing with the problem in a different way?

MR. ERELI: That's one difference between the two, between the two programs. There are many others. I mean, North Korea is a different country than Iran. It has a different history. All that sort of stuff.

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