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U.S. warns Iran over nuke plans

From CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor

Iran says its nuclear facility at Arak, shown in this satellite photo, is for peaceful uses only.
Iran says its nuclear facility at Arak, shown in this satellite photo, is for peaceful uses only.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States says the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council if it discovers any more violations of nuclear non-proliferation agreements -- a step that has so far been opposed by U.S. allies in Europe.

"The real issue now is whether the board of governors (of the IAEA) will remain together in its insistence that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is illegitimate, or whether Iranian efforts to split the board through economic incentives and aggressive propaganda will succeed," Under Secretary of State John Bolton said on Tuesday.

Addressing Iran's nuclear program, Bolton said evidence uncovered by the IAEA establishes "beyond doubt" that the Iranians have violated nonproliferation agreements.

He said that if the IAEA, which issued a resolution critical of Iran in November, discovers any more transgressions, it will be "obligated" to refer the matter to the Security Council for consideration -- a dramatic move that would increase the pressure on Tehran to rein in its nuclear ambitions. (Watchdog group warns Iran)

Iranian officials have denied that they are trying to obtain nuclear weapons, insisting that their pursuit of nuclear technology is for peaceful purposes.

U.S. officials have disputed that, arguing that oil-rich Iran has no pressing need to develop nuclear energy.

"The United States believes that the long-standing, massive and covert Iranian effort to acquire sensitive nuclear capabilities makes sense only as part of a nuclear weapons program," Bolton said.

In October, in an agreement brokered by European officials, Iran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment activities.

But Bolton said mixed messages were coming out of Tehran about Iran's willingness to adhere to that agreement, quoting a statement made over the weekend by Hasan Rowhani, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

"He said, 'Our decision to suspend uranium enrichment is voluntary and temporary. Uranium enrichment is Iran's natural right, and Iran will reserve for itself this right,'" Bolton said.

Bolton's remarks Tuesday also contained a message for nations who have criticized the United States for not relying more on the United Nations to resolve disputes, including the four other permanent members of the Security Council -- Russia, China, Britain and France.

He noted that neither the dispute over Iran's nuclear program nor the standoff over North Korea's efforts have been referred to the Security Council -- the former, because Britain and France objected, and the latter, because Russia and China did.

In both cases, the United States went along, despite concerns that not referring such major issues to the council risk weakening it or rendering it irrelevant.

"We hope that the other four permanent members of the Security Council are aware of the long-term implications of these decisions, as we are," Bolton said.

"Policies intended to bring about the termination of the Iranian and (North Korean) nuclear weapons programs, which result in reducing the council's role under the (U.N.) Charter, would truly be unfortunate and ironic."


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