Pressure grows on Iran over N-project
By Guy Dinmore in Washington
Published: April 2 2004 0:21 | Last Updated: April 2 2004 0:21
Iran is under mounting international pressure to give a full account of its nuclear programme before next week's visit to Tehran by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The US has told Mr ElBaradei it suspects Iran has a clandestine uranium enrichment programme separate from the giant Natanz plant.
"Iran seems determined to pursue its nuclear weapons programme in an undisturbed and clandestine fashion, and so that it can more easily obtain critical nuclear technology that it needs for its weapons programme," John Bolton, US undersecretary for arms control, told Congress on Tuesday.
He said Iran's "pattern of repeatedly lying to and providing false reports to the IAEA" cast serious doubts on the commitment it made last October to suspend its uranium enrichment programme and open all facilities to inspectors.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the White House was concerned Iran had "dispersed" its uranium enrichment programme to small sites that were hard to detect.
He declined to comment on a report in the Los Angeles Times last week, citing a western intelligence report, that said Iran set up a special committee late last year with the task of trying to hide nuclear evidence at nearly 300 locations round the country.
Iran denied the report. It said it had declared all its nuclear activities to the IAEA and that all were of a civilian nature.
Although the hardline US position has failed to draw broad support at the UN safeguards agency, Washington still appears determined to refer Iran's failure to meet its nuclear obligations to the UN Security Council for further action.
Over the past year Iran has been forced to divulge more about its programme than it originally acknowledged. The most recent IAEA resolution "deplores" Iran' s omissions related to advanced P-2 centrifuge development.
Diplomats and analysts in Washington have compared the US pressure with the build-up to the Iraq war. This time, however, there is clear evidence that Iran has an advanced nuclear programme that could be adapted to military use.
Senior US officials insist there are no US military plans for Iran. In private, however, hardline conservatives say President George W. Bush may consider limited strikes against suspected nuclear facilities if he is re-elected in November and if Iran does not abandon the nuclear weapons programme it denies having. http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1079420103711