Press Briefing with State Department Spokesperson Sean McCormack on Restarting Talks Between the EU-3 and Iran (Excerpts)

October 5, 2005

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

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QUESTION: A question on Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Yes, Sylvie.

Do you have any sense from your European counterparts that they are preparing to restart talks with Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any update for you on that. We've encouraged the Iranians to return to talks with the EU-3, but I don't have any particular update for you on that.

QUESTION: Have you seen reports that this is in the works? Not even that? No?

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: Have you seen reports that one of the main negotiators, one of the most moderate negotiators from Tehran, resigned today?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I hadn't seen those reports.

QUESTION: In fact, that's the main negotiator, Ali Larijani, went to Syria and met with President Assad. Did you see that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I had heard that that had occurred. Look, Iran has to decide what course it's going to take here. Is it going to continue on the course of further isolation from the international community, further defiance of the international community, or is it going to take the opportunity presented to it by the EU-3?

And we'll see. We'll see what the coming days and weeks bring. The IAEA Board of Governors voted at their most recent meeting that Iran was not in compliance with its international obligations and it had a series of questions to resolve concerning its nuclear activities.

And as part of that resolution there will be another report from -- there will be a report from the IAEA to the Security Council. Now, what is contained in that report in terms of Iran's cooperation, its compliance with its international obligations, will be up to Iran. So we'll decide -- we'll see, based on their actions and the decisions that they take, what pathway they're going to choose to go down.

QUESTION: What are your opportunities if Iran radicalizes completely its position and isolates itself from the rest of the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's take this one step at a time. What I think Iran has seen as a result of its actions -- you know, Iran has gotten itself to this position by itself, through its actions and its failure to cooperate and its defiance of the international community and, most recently, the speech by the Iranian President at the UN. I think that was shocking to a lot of countries but I think that they started to see the real face of this regime.

So we'll take this one step at a time, and right now we'll see what Iran does in terms of its reaction to the very clear statement of the international community, as manifested in the vote by the IAEA Board of Governors.

QUESTION: One more.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: There's a report out that the Iranian President is looking to completely turn over nuclear program to the military. Does this give you added -- do you know anything about this and would this give you added concern about Iran's nuclear program?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, one note about -- I saw this news report, and one note about the source of the report that I have to make. And that is that the National Council for Resistance in Iran --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Right -- is a designated alias of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, the MEK, which is -- which the U.S. has designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and the U.S. Government has no contact with the MEK or NCRI regarding Iran's nuclear programs. So just that note about the source of this report.

But in general, about the general issue of Iranian military control over Iran's and its role in Iran's nuclear program, we note that one of the outstanding concerns of the IAEA is, that the IAEA is continuing to investigate, is the extent of the Iranian military's role in Iran's nuclear program. The IAEA has already confirmed that Iran's military oversees many of the centrifuge workshops in Iran and that an Iranian military organization had conducted nuclear-related work at a facility in Lavizan that Iran demolished before the IAEA accessed the site. And also I would note that Iran continues to refuse the IAEA the full access it is requesting to visit an Iranian high-explosive facility at Parchin.

So there are -- this report aside, there were pre-existing concerns and outstanding questions regarding the Iranian military role in their nuclear program.

QUESTION: I understand what you say about the NCRI and MEK but they have been on the list for a while and they've provided information to the international community that it's used in claims before. So what's changed in terms of the kind of reliability of their information?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't vouch for the veracity of this claim. But one thing that we have done in the past and continue to do so is to encourage the IAEA to look into any potentially credible claim.

QUESTION: One last one. Is the U.S. considering this South African proposal as a viable solution for the standoff between the EU and Iran? Have you looked at that? I think this came up while we were at UNGA over the --

MR. MCCORMACK: The Secretary met with the South African Foreign Minister and I'm not aware of any change in the South African position on this. Where it stood at the time of that meeting was that the South Africans were interested in looking at what was happening with the EU-3 negotiations, what the objective -- the objectives of those negotiations were and exactly what was on the table, so they were in sort of information-gathering mode at that point. I haven't heard anything further about any formal proposal or formal offer from the South Africans. But so, at this point what I would say is that we would encourage Iran to get back to the table with the EU-3 in terms of their negotiating process.

QUESTION: You hinted at it, yes, but could you say it outright that the signs of an increasing role of the Iranian military in the nuclear program is further evidence that it's a weapons program?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the fact that there are those outstanding questions, and it's not only the United States but it's the IAEA that has these concerns, I think it stands to reason that the -- one logical conclusion of a military involvement in a nuclear program is that they're trying to build a nuclear weapon and that has been our concern for some time.

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