Remarks by U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations John Bolton (Excerpts)

January 25, 2006

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QUESTION: Let me just ask you, a time scale when you want this achieved by, when you think it can be achieved by?


QUESTION: And also, just to follow up, I know you're not here to talk about Iran, but most people's minds are focused on Iran. And you have said that it's a credibility test, again, for the UN Security Council on Iran. Are you suggesting that and I just --


QUESTION: You've said it, okay. And I just wonder, isn't there a danger, when you use that kind of language, that people immediately think Iraq and see that as a sort of a sign post of where they're going?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, on your first question, which I know must have been uppermost on your mind, the question -- the timing of the Human Rights Council reform, we had said last year we wanted to achieve the reform by the end of calendar 2005, because we felt that if we were able to do that, then we could have answered the question that George was really asking, "Do you have to have another meeting of the existing Commission?"

Right now, it's the end of January. Realistically, whether we can get agreement in February, I think, is open to question. And that then leads to the issue of what would happen with the meeting on the Commission. But I think it's clear, although we'd like to move forward, this is an objective that we have had for some time. Nobody should come away with the impression that we're so desperate for reform in a short period of time that we're going to give away major substantive elements that we think are critical to the reform process.

In terms of Iran and the Security Council, the two major threats that the civilized world faces today, two major threats to international peace and security, which is the buzz phrase in the UN charter that defines the baseline jurisdiction of the Security Council -- the two major threats we face are terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

So, the question for the Council is whether it can play an effective role in preventing WMD proliferation and participating in the global war on terror or whether it can't. Iran has been pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program for close to two decades. It's following an obvious strategic decision that it wants a nuclear weapons capability. We have made it clear over and over again that we seek a peaceful diplomatic solution to that problem. But it's not only appropriate, it's been our view for quite some time that because the Iranian program constitutes a threat to international peace and security, that it should be handled by the Security Council.

Now, the question of what the Council does depends in large part on how Iran reacts. The key to this really lies in Iran's hands. And if it makes the correct decision, which is to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons, then I think all kinds of things are possible. That's really what this effort diplomatically has been, is to show them that it's to their advantage not to pursue complete capability throughout the entire nuclear fuel cycle.

QUESTION: Can I follow that up, please? Your reference to terrorism as the second biggest problem, does that mean as the U.S. pursues its agenda on Iran's nuclear program, you will mix in or the U.S. will mix in or involve -- mix in -- maybe I don't have the right phrase -- will bring terrorism into the argument or is there reason enough to oppose Iran's program, irrespective of its support for terror groups?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think whether I said terrorism first or second, it's a tough decision, which is worse. But the absolute worst eventuality is the confluence between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. And I think that's why Iran is a particularly acute case, given that Iran, over the years, has been one of the most prolific state sponsors of terrorism in terms of supplies, manpower, finance.

One obviously has to worry that a nuclear-capable Iran would have the ability to deliver nuclear weapons not only through ballistic missiles, but also by giving these weapons to terrorist groups. It's a huge fear. And the fact is that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is in clear violation of the obligation that it undertook under the Nonproliferation Treaty not to seek such a capability. So this, again, is another reason why the Security Council's role, as defined in the UN charter, seems to us to be entirely appropriate.

QUESTION: Let me just ask, though, because the Security Council, what it did on Iraq is, it had sanctions and we know what happened with those sanctions. I wonder why you think getting it to the Security Council is so urgent if there's limited, you know, things on the table to threaten Iran with and when it risks the possibility that Iran could kick out IAEA inspectors and then the world would be blind?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, let me answer the last point first. The IAEA inspectors know what the IAEA inspectors know and they don't know what they don't' know. Iran is a big country. And the idea that we know everything that Iran is doing in the nuclear field, I don't think is self-evident.

The issue for the Security Council on the first instance is whether we can show Iran much more unmistakably than I think is -- that they perceive it now, that their pursuit of nuclear weapons is unacceptable. And I think that the -- simply bringing this matter to the agenda of the Security Council changes the political dynamic for them and hopefully will increase the international pressure to get them to give up that pursuit.

I think that's one of the reasons why we see the Security Council and the IAEA working together on this; that if the Security Council, as we said, becomes seized of the Iranian nuclear weapons program, then we can strengthen the hand of the IAEA in its efforts to get the Iranians to back off and comply with the existing IAEA resolutions.

QUESTION: Can you go under Chapter 7 on that?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, we haven't made any decision about the long-range course of action. I think the first thing that we're concentrating on now is getting the IAEA to -- Board of Governors to vote next week to report this to the Security Council and then we'll go from there.

QUESTION: Do you contemplate then that the Security Council might do something to strengthen the hand of the IAEA and essentially send the case back there? Would that be acceptable?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well,I don't think it's a case of sending it here or there. The mandate of the IAEA is the enforcement of Safeguards Agreements that individual countries signed with the IAEA. And the Safeguards Agreements are intended to measure the input of nuclear fuels into reactors and what the countries do with the outputs and they are obligated under the Safeguards Agreements as augmented by additional protocols to allow IAEA inspections. That's the IAEA's mandate.

The Security Council's mandate is international peace and security, which is obviously much broader. But the statute of the IAEA, from the time it was written, contemplated a close relationship with the Security Council because the pursuit of nuclear weapons obviously implicates international peace and security. So, that's why I said earlier one could imagine a quite close working relationship between the Security Council and the IAEA to address this problem.

QUESTION: But is that a sort of a -- is that an outcome from the Security Council, is my question now. I mean, if -- once referred to the Security Council, what do you expect the Security Council to do? Does the mere presence of the Iranian case at the Security Council provide enough pressure to dissuade Iran from the path or --

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, we don't know the answer to that question because it depends on what Iran does. But I do think it changes the dynamic to have the Iranian weapons program in the spotlight in the Security Council, rather than considered in a technical agency of the UN.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. I didn't -- can you just -- just to clarify, so you're saying it's not necessary to have a vote at the IAEA, as far as you're concerned?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think the course we've been following for quite some time, since I worked on it -- and my other capacity as well is to have a report by the IAEA to the Security Council.

QUESTION: This is kind of -- this is a follow-up on both of those, but in a slightly different way. You said that the question for the Security Council is to determine whether or not they can play a constructive -- I'm not sure what adjective you used.

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I'm sure it was constructive.


QUESTION: Effective, constructive role in this question. But since, as Michelle brought up, it seems every measure was taken at the Security Council with Iraq and it wasn't effective, what is your recommended path forward so that they could be effective in this case? What are you recommending that the Security Council could do?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think in the first instance, what we're recommending is that the Council help dramatize the extent of the opposition to Iran achieving a nuclear weapons capability. And I might say that there's not a single permanent member of the Security Council that accepts that Iran should have nuclear weapons. I mean, on the broad strategic question, there really is complete agreement. I think foreign ministers and indeed, heads of government going back to the Sea Island Summit in 2004 have made that clear.

The issue is how to demonstrate to the Iranians that the course they're pursuing is not acceptable. And the nature of the effort, really, I don't think can be projected very far into the future because it depends -- the nature of the actions we would take depend on Iran's responses. You know, we have a very good example of what can happen when a country makes a strategic decision to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons in the case of Libya, where Colonel Qadhafi decided that he was safer not pursuing those weapons and where we were able to reach agreement very satisfactory to us that involved our ability to look across the entire Libyan nuclear program and remove it from Libya.

So the -- and Colonel Qadhafi remains in power. So, I mean, the Iranians have that example before them and that's one response that they could give.

QUESTION: But that's not a Security Council effort -- because the Security Council was particularly effective. Was it?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, that was done outside of the Security Council, to be sure. But as of now, every indication we have is that Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons, so that the non-Security Council options have proven unsuccessful.

QUESTION: So you're saying that until you see what Iran does in light of February 2nd or getting to the Security Council, you can't give us any ideas about what the Security Council might do to fulfill a more effective role?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I mean, there are lots of ideas, but the idea -- the course we're pursuing is, at this point, to mobilize international political opinion. And I think that's part of what the President and the Secretary have been doing. I think it's been quite successful. I think we now see that the EU-3, as we call them, have joined the longstanding American view that this matter had to be taken to the Security Council. The Russians have said publicly they're not going to oppose a report by the IAEA to the Security Council and so, that's the approach we're pursing in the IAEA. And we need to see -- we need to have that meeting take place. We need to see how the Iranians react and then we'll proceed in New York.

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QUESTION: Can you help me understand something on Iran I think a lot of us don't really understand? A week ago we had a briefing with Mr. Solana, who tried to explain the difference between reporting Iran to the Security Council and referring Iran to the Security Council. He basically summarized by saying that referring has more guts, it's more significant, and I think Mr. McCormack today said a referral is a referral is a referral. (Laughter.)

Now you've just used the word "report" twice, I think "refer" once. But in your eyes, sitting on the Security Council, does it make any difference to you how it gets to you over there?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: The lawyers have been cogitating about the nature of the language and I am confident that when the lawyers finish cogitating they will come up with the right language and when it gets to the Security Council we will know what to do with it.

QUESTION: My question is on Oil-for-Food. Are you done, Guy?

QUESTION: Well, so they haven't come up with the right language yet, then?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: No, I think the word is probably "report" and that's fine. It's the same thing.

QUESTION: It's the same thing?

STAFF: It's the same thing.

QUESTION: Okay, that's what I wanted to know --

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: It's the difference between what some in Vienna are saying, which to inform the Security Council, but a report is tantamount to a referral.

QUESTION: On Oil-for-Food --

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: That's my opinion, not as a lawyer but as a policy thinker.

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QUESTION: And also if I could follow up on a different subject. Kofi Annan said that he was still talking to the Iranians and that he was hoping to not have it reach a referral as you thought. There's still room for negotiations before it goes to the IAEA. Have you had any talks with him about that and do you know, is that still a possibility and is that something that the U.S. would accept?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think this is fundamentally a question for member governments to decide because the IAEA and the UN are, after all, intergovernmental organizations. And Secretary Rice will be meeting with her counterparts next week. The IAEA Board, which consists of member governments, will meet next Thursday and the member governments will make the decision.

QUESTION: But have you talked to Kofi about it?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I have not talked to him recently about it, no.

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QUESTION: Given the status of play with Iran -- back to Iran. In a best case scenario, if it were to be referred early in February, can you give us any guesstimate of the time frame since we've heard countries say they want to go slowly, they want to do it in stages, etc, a guesstimate of the time frame before the word "sanctions" might become viable?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think we've made it clear that our focus is on getting the matter to the Security Council and then using the political weight of the Council to try and make it clear to Iran that they're following the wrong course. I mean, we haven't -- we really haven't gotten into the question of timetable or anything else. The hope would be that Iran would come to its senses and give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons simply because it understands fully that the international community is completely united in its opposition to Iran acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.

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QUESTION: Just one last one on Iran. You seem to be saying that the idea about taking Iran to the Security Council backfiring, some have expressed fear that it might backfire by kicking out the inspectors, you seemed to be saying to us earlier that, you know, the inspectors don't really have a full picture of what's going on in Iran anyway and so maybe, you know, there's not so much of a risk of it seriously backfiring. Is that --

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, the question that was put to me was that if the inspectors were expelled that the IAEA, we would be blind. And my point was that that assumes that the IAEA inspectors have a full sense or have sealed and are fully observing everything that Iran is doing in the nuclear area now, and I don't think we can be confident of that.

QUESTION: You're saying that we're already blind so --

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, that's -- but I mean, let me just give you one example. That's why the proposal that's out there that Iran be allowed to have a pilot centrifuge cascade purely for research purposes, who can object to that as a compromise? Well, that's because the answer is if you can master the science and technology of uranium enrichment through the operation of a centrifuge cascade, one centrifuge, one cascade of 150-160 centrifuges, once you master that science, then you can replicate it elsewhere in a vast country with no guarantee that anybody knows where it's going to be.

The worst part of proliferation is intellectual knowledge. It's not tubes for centrifuges. Equipment follows from the knowledge. And what we're worried about and I think should be worried about is that as long as this goes on, every day that goes by, the risk increases that Iran is expanding its knowledge of how to master the nuclear fuel cycle. And once they get that capability technologically and scientifically and intellectually, then the risk of proliferation increases.

QUESTION: Could I be absolute, no qualifications, the problem should go to the UN - to the Security Council? Because Iran and Russia yesterday said IAEA. I just heard Hans Blix today. You know, he has some expertise. And he says it isn't so important where you do it -- maybe the Council, but the main thing is to x, y, z.

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I guess I would put it this way: The Council is charged by the UN Charter with principal responsibility for threats to international peace and security. So if you take the words of the Charter seriously, then it should be in the Council.


QUESTION: Ambassador, if it were scary enough for Iran that world opinion were unified against it, wouldn't it already be scared? You don't need to go to the Security Council if everything that you believe is true, that everyone - that all nations believe it's crossed the red line and they've all come out and said that. Why isn't Iran threatened enough by that?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think it's a question of taking the steps that are available to us to make that opinion manifest. And as I've said, there isn't any guarantee of what the Security Council is going to do or how Iran is going to respond to it. That's why this is a test for the Security Council.

QUESTION: But why isn't anyone willing to talk about next steps? Since you've already got the world opinion unified, why can't you say what comes next?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Because I think there's a fundamental difference in the political dynamic, among other things, when you go to the Security Council and have it considered there. I think the five permanent members have a particular obligation for the maintenance of international peace and security and the operation of the Security Council, and I think that will weigh on them in a way that it doesn't in Vienna.

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