By Cindy Saine, VOA, White House
The White House on Monday condemned Iran's latest missile tests as "provocative" and called on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to provide inspectors "unfettered access" to its nuclear facilities.
Iran's test-firing of two long-range missiles comes just days ahead of a rare and crucial meeting in Geneva on Thursday among diplomatic representatives of six major powers, including the United States, and Iranian officials.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had this
reaction to the timing of the missile tests:
"I would lump any of these into the provocative nature with which Iran has acted on the world stage for a number of years," said Robert Gibbs.
Iran says it tests weapons to show its resolve to counter what it says are possible attacks by Israel or the United States.
White House press secretary Gibbs said this is an important week for Iran. He said Iran can continue on its present course, even though the world has conclusive intelligence about its uranium-enrichment facility.
"Or it can make a decision to step away from its nuclear weapons program and build confidence in the world," he said.
Asked what Iran could do to improve the prospects of success at Thursday's talks, Gibbs said Tehran should provide immediate and unfettered access to its nuclear facilities to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
On Friday, Iran admitted the existence of a uranium enrichment plant to the IAEA. But Tehran continues to maintain that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Gibbs said that the missile tests, which include the firing of two types of short-range missiles on Sunday, demonstrate that President Barack Obama made the right decision to alter U.S. missile defense strategy in Europe.
"I think it reinforces the decision that was made not too long ago to change the focus of our missile defense to ensure the security of our forces, the security of our military bases and the security of our allies more directly by exactly the type of machinery that the Iranians were testing," said Gibbs.
Earlier this month, President Obama announced that the United States would focus on the threat of short and medium-range missiles from Iran, instead of the threat from intercontinental missiles.
Gibbs said he believes that there has never been a stronger international consensus to address Iran and its nuclear program than there is now. Analysts say Russia and China are crucial to any potential move to impose tough international sanctions against Iran. Those two countries are scheduled to join Britain, France, Germany and the United States - for talks with Iranian officials in Geneva on Thursday.
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