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4/10/07

US Official: Iran's Nuclear Expansion Marks 'Another Missed Opportunity'

State Department’s McCormack calls on “reasonable” Iranian leaders to weigh program costs

Washington -- Iran’s defiance of the international community by expanding its uranium enrichment is depriving that nation of current and future global trade and investment opportunities, the Bush administration said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said April 9 that Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad’s announcement that Iran had begun industrial-scale uranium enrichment was “another missed opportunity” on the part of the Iranian leadership, but added that a negotiated solution to problems posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions still is being offered by the international community.

“They have had numerous opportunities over the past month to take up the offer that's been extended to them of negotiations so that they can realize their stated goal of a peaceful nuclear energy program.  But clearly, they have decided against that course at this point,” McCormack said.

With a suspension of enrichment-related activities, Iran could negotiate with the United States and the international community.  Iranians could “talk about anything that they want to put on the table and suspend the course on which we find ourselves right now,” McCormack said.  However, he added that by continuing on the present course in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the pressure on Iran “is only going to continue to increase.”

McCormack said the Bush administration is calling on “reasonable Iranian leaders” to do a “cost-benefit analysis” to assess the value of continuing its enrichment activities in the wake of mounting financial pressure.

“There are opportunity costs for now, business deals that don't get done, for trade that doesn't happen, for investment that doesn't happen.  There are upfront costs to that, but there are future costs as well in terms of trade and economic benefits that won't be realized, and that is unfortunate because … it doesn't have to be that way,” he said.

The spokesman pointed to Germany’s decision to decrease its export credits supporting trade with Iran by 40 percent, which he said is a “strong message to the Iranians that the behavior in which they're engaged in is unacceptable,” and “outside the accepted norms” of the international community.

“That's trade that is not happening with Iran.  And if they're going to be seeking the goods that they might have gotten through that trade elsewhere, it's going to be at a higher cost.  And you can see that story repeated elsewhere throughout the international financial system and the international trading system,” he said.

McCormack added that it is “unfortunate” that the Iranian people may have to bear some of the cost of their government’s decisionmaking.  “Nobody wants that; nobody wants to go down this path.  But this is the pathway that the Iranian government has put us on,” he said.

He said more U.N. Security Council resolutions are possible as the international community pursues its strategy of “gradually ratcheting up the pressure on the Iranian government,” and that the Bush administration’s partners in the Security Council do not require much encouragement to that end.

“The Iranians are doing a lot of work on behalf of those in the international system who do want to increase the international pressure by making speeches like this and making announcements like they did today,” he said.

Iran’s president said his nation is expanding the number of centrifuges and cascades for uranium enrichment.  McCormack said the United States does not dispute that Iran has increased the number of both, but said he did not know if uranium hexafluoride (UF6) feedstock gas has been injected into the centrifuge cascades to enrich the uranium.

“But still, it is an indication of their intentions, and the fact that they continue to expand the number of centrifuges that they produce and then install into cascades is an indication of their intent at this point,” he said.

Iran’s statements are “a source of concern” for the global community, he said.  “I think you'll find universal agreement that Iran's neighbors and responsible states of the international system don't want to see Iran obtain a nuclear weapon or to get the know-how to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

Earlier, McCormack said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be presenting a report on Iran’s nuclear program May 24.

The IAEA officials “are the only ones on the ground in the position to assess by how much Iran is expanding its programs, whether or not they're introducing UF6 feedstock into the centrifuges, or exactly what is the state of their program,” he told reporters.

McCormack said Iran has not been answering the international system’s “legitimate questions” about its nuclear activities, and “quite frankly, we have gotten to the point now … where the members of that international community, including the Security Council and the IAEA board of governors don't believe the Iranians' assurances that their program is peaceful in nature.”

A transcript of McCormack’s remarks at the daily press briefing is available on the State Department Web site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

 

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