US President George W. Bush took advantage of the recent leaders’ summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) to exert pressure on Iran to dismantle its nuclear program and prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Faced with nuclear challenges from both North Korea and Iran – both branded by Bush as part of the “axis of evil” – Bush sought to shore up support at the opening of the 21-member leaders’ summit.
The United States reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed with Bush on the necessity to keep pressure on Iran and prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The United States is doubtful about Tehran’s intentions in talks it is conducting with Britain, France and Germany. The three EU heavyweights on Monday, November 22 – the deadline set to reach agreement with Iran – said that Iran would suspend enrichment of uranium.
But the United States remains unconvinced that the EU trio has achieved a breakthrough in getting Iran to dismantle or eliminate its nuclear weapons program. Facing the Monday deadline, Iran reportedly is making significant quantities of hexafluoride gas that can be used to make nuclear arms.
Without a breakthrough with Iran, the US intends to ask the UN Security Council to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran.
Bush praised the efforts of the EU trio to persuade the Iranians not to pursue nuclear weapons. “They do believe that Iran has got nuclear ambitions, as do we, as do many around the world,” Bush said.
Having reached an agreement with the EU trio, Iran has suspended its uranium-enrichment program, but only after it had already converted several tons of raw uranium – yellowcake – into the gas that can be use to make nuclear fuel or weapons.
In Vienna, the head of the UN watchdog agency said the suspension appeared confirmed.
“I think pretty well everything has come to a halt,” said Mohamed El-Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. El-Baradei said he expected confirmation of the Iranian suspension within a week, honouring a pledge to freeze activities that can be used for both energy programs and nuclear weapons programs.
The Iranians said that the suspension of the program – which it insists is peaceful – will be brief, voluntary and contingent on what the Europeans do next.
Providing that the EU is satisfied with what the Iranians are doing, the EU is expected to resume negotiations with Iran for a trade and political cooperation agreement. Such an agreement is likely to help Iran develop a peaceful nuclear energy program.
- Jeffry Babb