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QUESTION: Okay. On Iran, Prime Minister Sharon of Israel has reported to have taken a very tough line, saying Israel -- Iran is near the point of no return on its nuclear, also expressing frustration with the slow pace of the European talks. (A) Does the United States share this opinion on both counts and; (b) does this give new urgency to what we need to do in terms of (inaudible) with Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, we certainly share the concern of many in the international community about Iran's nuclear weapons development program. Frankly, there's no other explanation for their secret nuclear fuel cycle efforts and for their continuing failure to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency's ongoing investigations.
We want to make sure than Iran is not able to acquire the capability to develop nuclear weapons and to continue these covert programs that it has had for so many years. And that needs to be -- that's a goal that we have, that the IAEA has and that the international community shares very broadly. We certainly understand Israel -- other governments are concerned about nuclear developments in Iran and we talk to many governments about it.
The question of Iran's nuclear program, as White House has said, did come up in Crawford. I think we're all hoping, looking for a peaceful diplomatic solution to the issue. The United States has supported the European Union 3 effort. We believe that is the opportunity for Iran to resolve these issues, that is the opportunity to get an end to their covert activities and an end to the attempt to acquire the capability that could lead to a nuclear weapon.
We have -- I think our intelligence community has used in the past an estimate that said that Iran was not likely to acquire a nuclear weapon before the beginning of the next decade. That remains the case. But I don't think there's any dispute that Iran should not have the capabilities, the programs that have been used and that can be used as cover for nuclear weapons development.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that as well?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The point that it's still been about three weeks since the last negotiations between the EU and Iran, we haven't heard anything from any side on that except some bellicose statements from Iran and we have this worry from Ariel Sharon. Does the United States share some preoccupation here that the talks are not going as fast as they should be?
MR. BOUCHER: We have not tried to do an ongoing assessment of the European talks. They are conducting the negotiations. They are conducting the diplomacy. You would have to talk to them if you want to hear about whether they think it's going as it should or not.
What we have said, and what the United States view is, is that we very much think it's time for Iran to take the opportunity to comply with the requirements of the IAEA, to comply with the needs of the international community for satisfaction or reassurance that they're not going to develop a weapon. And the sooner they do that, the better.
QUESTION: If I may, if I can follow up on that. There's a report out of Vienna today saying that French President Chirac has been pushing other members of the EU-3 and, I'm told, even his own Foreign Ministry to consider allowing Iran to enrich uranium, to drop its previous objection to that. Are you aware of any effort on the part of Chirac to do that and is that idea, even if you don't know about Chirac's reported desire, remotely acceptable to you for the Iranians to retain any capacity to enrich uranium?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen that report. We don't -- I'm not going to speak for President Chirac or the Government of France. You'll have to ask them about what they are and are not -- what their position is or is not.
The position of the United States and, I think, many other members of the international community has been and continues to be that the suspension of enrichment activity needs to be made permanent, it needs to be turned into a permanent cessation. That's the only way that Iran is going to be able to satisfy the international community that they're not maintaining these capabilities, maintaining these programs that have been and can be used as cover for nuclear weapons developments.
QUESTION: So you would reject anybody suggesting that there not be a permanent cessation of --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if anybody has suggested that. I think the United States position is very clear.
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