Press Briefing with State Department Spokesperson Sean McCormack on Russia and Iran (Excerpts)

October 4, 2005

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QUESTION: Are you going to take a look at Assistant Secretary Rademaker's remarks yesterday in New York on Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I did have an opportunity to take a look at his remarks and I think that, again, like I said yesterday, we welcome the efforts of the Russian Government to insist on proliferation resistant measures at the Bushehr reactor, including signing earlier this year of an agreement with Iran that requires all spent fuel from the reactor to be returned to Russia.

Russia has offered to supply nuclear fuel for the lifetime of that reactor, which underscores our view and the view of many in the international community that Iran's ambitious and costly pursuit of indigenous capabilities to produce fissile material make no sense from a peaceful energy standpoint.

I think that Russia shares the concerns of IAEA Board members that Iran must not be allowed to pursue a covert nuclear weapons program. We look forward to further consultations with Russia on how to address the Iranian nuclear problem at the November IAEA Board meeting.

QUESTION: So when he was referring to a freeze, was he speaking for himself or was he speaking for U.S. policy?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I think that what he's, you know, what he's talking about is the fact that Iran's position vis-à-vis the international community has changed as a result of the most recent IAEA Board decision. And that is that Iran has been found in noncompliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty, with its obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty. And I think that everybody shares the goal that Iran not have -- two things: one, Iran not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program; and two, that Iran not be allowed to have access to either the technology or the know-how for sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities in Iran. Russia has addressed those concerns in the way that it has structured the Bushehr reactor deal.

I think that what the most recent action by the IAEA Board of Governors does is that it would highlight for all countries, groups, organizations that might be approached by the Iranian Government in cooperation with -- on peaceful nuclear technology, to take a look at exactly what is the nature of the Iranian request. And, you know, again, all of this, you know -- I say all of this with the idea in mind that it's really about Iranian behavior here. The spotlight should be and the focus should be on Iran's behavior in its failure to live up to its international obligations.

So we have, in the wake of the IAEA -- most recent IAEA Board of Governors meeting, we have called upon Iran to reflect upon where it finds itself now. And that where it finds itself now is further isolated from the international community as a result of its actions. So we would encourage them to get back to the negotiating table with the EU-3 and to answer the questions that are on the table presented to them by the IAEA Board of Governors.


QUESTION: So you say the dynamic has now changed after the IAEA vote. Has, therefore, the U.S. position changed? It seemed to be, as it was articulated by Assistant Secretary yesterday. In the past you have been satisfied with the way the Bushehr project is structured. You haven't called for a freeze, but yesterday he called for a freeze on all projects. Is that something then that is not a Bush Administration position, it hasn't changed?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, our concerns are twofold with respect to Iran: one, it shouldn't be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. It would be destabilizing for the region as well for the world. And the focus of our efforts, if you look at their cooperation with the EU-3 and their negotiations and the focus of their negotiations has been to not allow Iran to have access to those sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities inside Iran.

(Inaudible) you know, access to those kind of technologies, to that kind of know-how in Iran is a problem because of Iran's past behavior, its attempts over the years to hide what it has been doing from the international community. Over the years, the United States was a lonely voice trying to bring attention to Iran's activities, but you know, I think that what you have seen recently among the international community is a coalescence around the idea that Iran is not doing what it says it is doing. It is not trying to pursue peaceful nuclear energy. That is not its ultimate objective. Its objective is to pursue nuclear weapons. So we have, you know, we're certainly gratified by the -- over the years, a building of support to take a look at exactly what Iran is doing.

QUESTION: So there's a lot of context there but specifically does the United States want Russia to freeze its project with Iran over Bushehr?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, as I said yesterday, we think that the Bushehr nuclear deal, the way that it's structured with respect to its fuel take back provisions was an important step forward. It was a result of discussions over the years with the United States as well as others.

QUESTION: So you're saying there's no need for a freeze?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I think that, you know, with respect to the Bushehr deal and its fuel take back provisions, what -- it addresses the concerns that the United States has and others in the international community has with regard to Iran getting access to those sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities, both the technology and the know-how. I would say that, you know, we would ask probably a more fundamental question about why in fact Iran needs peaceful nuclear energy, given its vast hydrocarbon reserves. But that's a different question.

QUESTION: So the question still needs an answer, there's (inaudible)? I mean the question was about whether you wanted a freeze?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I --

QUESTION: I mean, it's a simple yes or no question.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I talked yesterday about the Bushehr deal and I just spoke about it again today. I don't have anything to add to that.

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