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Middle East Digest: Feb 22, 2007

Bureau of Public Affairs
February 22, 2007

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The Middle East Digest provides text and audio from the Daily Press Briefing. For the full briefings, please visit http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/

From the Daily Press Briefing of Feb. 22, 2007:


QUESTION: Reaction to the IAEA report?

MR. CASEY: Well, as you know, the report has now been issued and circulated. While I think everyone needs to take a good chance to look at it and review it carefully, what does come through in it are the basic conclusions that I think we'd all pretty much foreseen going into this, which is first that Iran has not complied with the requirements of the UN Security Council and has not stopped enriching uranium, Iran has not ceased any of its other uranium enrichment activities and it also has not answered the outstanding questions that the IAE -- IAEA, excuse me, has had for some time about the origins of their program, including a series of issues such as where various kinds of uranium contamination, HEU as well as LEU had come from.

So the report, I think, gives us a pretty clear picture that shows that Iran has not changed its behavior, has not changed its views and is continuing on the path of defiance. And as I told you this morning, that's unfortunate. We think that it would be far better for the Iranian people as well as for the international community to be able to have Iran engage with the permanent members of the Security Council and Germany in negotiations. But of course, to do that, it requires them to heed the requirements of the resolution and suspend the uranium enrichment activities.

So the next steps are to look at in the Security Council what we might need to do in response to this. And I know there are consultations that are underway. The Secretary had some meetings relevant to this this morning before she left Berlin and she's spoken to that already. There are ongoing consultations in New York. As I mentioned, Nick Burns has been very active in terms of discussing this issue with his colleagues. And I think you'll see over the coming days an outline starting to appear of how we'd like to respond to this.

My understanding in terms of the specific actions in the Security Council is we are awaiting a formal meeting to be called by the presidency. I have an understanding that that will likely take place next week, and that will be the first of the Council's formal opportunities to review the report and take a look at things. But again, we'll be continuing to consult outside of that formal meeting structure with our partners and allies as we move along here.

Well, that was easy. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, is it still --

MR. CASEY: Sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: The Secretary said last week that although no decision had been made, it was likely that you would seek a second resolution. You've seen nothing whatsoever that dissuades you from that view? I mean, if anything, it's probably more likely that you'll --

MR. CASEY: No, I think clearly while we again need to look at all the details of the report, it's very clear that none of the requirements of the resolution have been met. The resolution then says that the Council is going to meet and look at and consider other action -- other actions in response to Iran's noncompliance. So we'll certainly be doing that. And while I don't want to prejudge anything, as the Secretary has said, we're -- you know, considering and looking at a second resolution. Certainly though, there are going to be additional actions taken by the international community in response to Iran's noncompliance.

And again, the goal here is to convince Iran to change its behavior and to do what its been so long asked of it, which is to suspend its uranium enrichment activities and come back to the talks. And again, as I said this morning, I think that this is a real missed opportunity, another missed opportunity on the part of the Government of Iran, to not only engage with the international community but to really do the right thing by its people.

The United States and the broad international community does not object to civilian nuclear power for Iran or for any other country that operates in good standing with its international obligations. And certainly whether you look at the proposals that have been put on the table over the course of the last couple of years by the Russians among others to try and address this situation, time and again, unfortunately, what's happened is the Iranian Government has spurned all those opportunities to resolve this issue in a way that would allow them to achieve their stated objective but would assure the international community that they're not actually using those programs to cover the development of a nuclear weapon.

So I think it's a fair question for anyone that holds that this is simply just a normal, regular old civilian nuclear program why it is that the Iranians seems so intent -- the Iranian Government seems so intent on refusing all these opportunities to have them achieve that objective but still resolve the many questions that are outstanding and provide assurances that the international community clearly and repeatedly has said it needs.


MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I've got to say, I feel like I'm coming in where I left off two years ago in this story. But you talked about the outside consultations. Are you aware of any -- of what those are right now? Are they going on here? Are they going on in New York right now or --

MR. CASEY: Well, there are consultations going on in several formats. The Secretary mentioned this morning in her comments that she had met and discussed the Iranian issue with several of her colleagues there. Under Secretary Burns, as I mentioned, has also been engaged via the phone with some of his counterparts. And there are active discussions and formal discussions going on in New York with Ambassador Wolf and other members of our UN team.

QUESTION: Is the -- the context of those discussions is what to do in the Council or just talking about the report? Have you gotten to that stage what to do in the Council or are you just talking --

MR. CASEY: Well, the context right now is, you know, getting people's assessments of the report and then also talking about what others as well as we consider to be logical next steps and what we might do. Again, the Secretary signaled that we certainly are considering the possibility of another resolution, but that will obviously depend on the results of these consultations and where all of us feel we can best apply our influence and best take steps to encourage the Iranians to comply with their obligations.

Let's go back here.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Sorry --

QUESTION: Come back.

MR. CASEY: One hold on that. Let's go back to Sylvie.

QUESTION: Do you have any sense of -- already I don't know if you had the possibility -- do you have any sense of the readiness of Russia to talk about another resolution since the Secretary met with Foreign Minister Lavrov?

MR. CASEY: I don't have a readout on her conversations specifically and I'd leave it to the party to address that. But we've very much been in engaged with all members of the permanent five as well as Germany on this subject. Certainly, we believe that the Russians continue to understand the seriousness of the defiance of Iran for the international community, including for the Security Council resolutions that they helped craft and voted for. And certainly they are concerned about this and are engaged with us in these discussions about next steps.

Yeah. Same subject, anybody? Nina?

QUESTION: Yeah. The report itself reports a very low level of uranium enrichment. I mean, certainly not weapons grade. What does this tell us, do you think, in reality the progress of the program?

MR. CASEY: Well, I don't think -- and I'll leave it to both the experts at the IAEA as well as technical experts in this government to give you an assessment of where that specifically leaves them. Certainly what is clear though is that they have not only not suspended their uranium enrichment activities as required, but they're continuing to try and push ahead with them. As to what technical obstacles they have or haven't encountered, I'll leave it to the people that really understand the ins and outs of the nuclear fuel cycle to give you an evaluation of that.

QUESTION: Can I follow up, please?

MR. CASEY: A follow-up? Sure.

QUESTION: A question about the language that ElBaradei tends to use in these reports. In previous reports he said that he -- his general line is he cannot verify the uranium nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. Is this language strong enough? I mean, should it be saying he can't verify that it's peaceful? Should it be saying that they really are up to no good?

MR. CASEY: Now look, this is a technical report and when you look at that -- and this is the language that the IAEA and their technical experts use in producing these kinds of documents -- I think it's very disturbing when you see international inspectors after several years of review and after several years of asking for information and asking for questions being able to fundamentally not make a clear statement as to what that nuclear program is for.

And the fact that they cannot rule out diversion of nuclear materials, that they cannot rule out programs outside of what's been formally declared, the fact that even among the things that are formally declared there are many, many unanswered questions, I think makes it pretty clear to most people that this program which had an almost two-decade clandestine history before it was ever brought to light is one that the international community definitely needs to be concerned about.

And you again have to ask yourself, with all the opportunities that are being provided and have been provided over the years for Iran to resolve these issues peacefully, reasonably and do so in a way that would still allow them to have a civilian nuclear program, what is the intention? And I think for us, it's very clear that the intention is not just to develop civilian nuclear power but to use this as a cover for a nuclear weapons program.


QUESTION: Tom, part of --

MR. CASEY: Okay. Same subject?

QUESTION: Same subject.

MR. CASEY: Okay. Go ahead, Joel, and then we'll move on down in front.

QUESTION: Tom, Secretary Hill in delivering a address at Brookings was commenting that the Iranian nuclear reactor work was totally separate from, of course, North Korea. Now it appears to be an infrastructure that is with a black market hidden -- it could very well be banking and suppliers. Are we going -- or asking international community, meaning the talks in Europe that Condoleezza Rice has just had in Berlin, to go after those suppliers, not necessarily at government level but there's a criminal element that's supplying all this equipment and it just doesn't merely stop. You want it to stop quickly and it's just dragging on. You've dragged on in these talks for better than a year and half.

MR. CASEY: Well, but Joel, I think what you're leaving out of the picture here are a number of things. First of all, for the part of the United States, it was a very active program, both established by law as well as through executive order, to prevent the transfer of nuclear technologies, other WMD technologies, ballistic missile technologies. There are international regimens as well that many countries have subscribed to doing that. There are efforts led by the United States, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, designed to make sure that those, whether countries or commercial entities or other kinds of networks trying to traffic in these materials can be identified, interdicted and ultimately brought down.

There are also activities that are underway, whether it's with respect to Iran or North Korea or other countries who have come under Chapter 7 sanctions to make required, as a legally binding Chapter 7 requirement, that countries again take actions to prevent the transfer of technologies openly, clandestinely or otherwise to countries that are attempting to develop nuclear weapons or attempting to proliferate these technologies.

So there's a lot of work that is actually going on in this area. Certainly there's more that needs to be done because we all understand the implications of nuclear proliferation, whether that's in the hands of a negative state actor such as the Iranian Government or whether that's potentially in the hands of a terrorist group.

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