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Iran: U.S. IAEA Envoy Says Time For Diplomacy Remains

U.S. IAEA envoy Gregory Schulte (file photo) (epa) June 12, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The United States' permanent representative international organizations in Vienna, Gregory Schulte, spoke with Radio Farda's Fatemeh Aman ahead of meetings of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) governing board, at which member states were expected to discuss Iran's disputed nuclear program.

RFE/RL: What do you expect from the IAEA board meeting?

Gregory Schulte: The board is meeting throughout this week and we are reviewing a report by the director-general [Muhammad el-Baradei] on Iran's nuclear activities. And this report documents two very disturbing trends. The first trend is the Iran's leadership is moving forward -- aggressively, defiantly, and despite three Security Council resolutions -- to develop a uranium-enrichment capability. And as you know, this is a capability that's not necessary for peaceful purposes but is necessary if you want to build a nuclear weapon. The second disturbing trend is that Iran continues to withdraw cooperation from the International Atomic Energy Agency. Most recently, Iran decided to not provide the IAEA with early design information on new nuclear facilities. And it also decided to deny IAEA inspectors access into a heavy-water reactor at Arak. These are concern to us and they also belie the statements by Iran's leaders that they're fully cooperating with the IAEA. Clearly they are not.

"We always hope for positive results because, after all, our goal is to get Iran into negotiations. We're prepared to negotiate with Iran on a major package of incentives if only Iran meets its international obligations."

RFE/RL: Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary and top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said recently, I think it was last week after his meeting with EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, that Iran eventually would provide the IAEA with documents that they need. Do you think it still helps?

Schulte: I think the board of governors here in Vienna and the Security Council in New York have both laid out very clearly what Iran's leaders need to do. They need to meet their international obligations. And this means cooperating with the IAEA to answer troubling questions about their nuclear activities, and it also means suspending activities like enrichment of uranium as a confidence-building measure, because these are activities not necessary for civil purposes but are activities that give us great concern.

RFE/RL: Do you mean that whatever he provided, basically, whatever Iran provided to the IAEA, wouldn't count until Iran suspended enriching uranium?

Schulte: Well, Iran needs to do two things, and I think this has been laid out pretty clearly by the world community. It needs to suspend these activities of concern, and it needs to start cooperating with the IAEA. I've noticed that before every meeting of the IAEA board, Iran comes in and promises fuller cooperation with the IAEA. But...for every board meeting, they make this promise and then they produce nothing. I would like to see them actually start cooperation. That would be a very important step and then, next, they need to suspend these activities of concern.

RFE/RL: Could you please comment at this time on the protests by the United States and others to Mr. el-Baradei over his statement...that the push should not be to stop Iran's enriching capability but to leave Iran with some enrichment activity. Can you comment on this at this time?

Schulte: We work very closely with Muhammad el-Baradei. We have great respect for him and we appreciate his advice. Here is a case where the Security Council, three times, has required Iran to suspend uranium-enrichment activities. And we think this remains essential. And, in fact, first the foreign ministers and then the leaders of the [Group of Eight] have declared...that Iran needs to suspend, Iran needs to comply with the Security Council requirements.

RFE/RL: And do you expect any result from the meetings between the Solana and Larijani deputies on June 11 and next week?

Schulte: We always hope for positive results because, after all, our goal is to get Iran into negotiations. We're prepared to negotiate with Iran on a major package of incentives if only Iran meets its international obligations. So we would like these talks to have a positive outcome; we would like to be able to suspend further Security Council action. But this requires Iran to suspend its development of enrichment-related activities. So I'm reluctant to predict what will come out of these results. We hope for the best, but at this point with Iran moving forward defiantly with its uranium-enrichment activities, the members of the Security Council have made it fairly clear that the Security Council needs to take further action.

RFE/RL: And you have said in the past that the more time it takes for Iran to obey the UN resolutions, the more difficult it becomes to find a solution to resolve the crisis. So when is the time that you would say diplomacy has failed?

Schulte: We are determined to continue with the diplomacy, and I've mentioned to you before [that] we think there is time for diplomacy -- because even though Iran is working very hard to acquire a nuclear-weapons capability, we don't think they would be able to obtain nuclear weapons until early next decade at the earliest. So this gives us time for diplomacy, but it doesn't give us time for complacency. And we hope to convince the leadership in Tehran that what is best for them and what is best for the international community is to cooperate with the IAEA, is to negotiate with the U.S., Europe, Russia, and China, and is to suspend the activities of concern.

RFE/RL: These days we hear a lot about the possibility of military action both to stop Iran's nuclear program and to stop what Independent U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman called "Iran's activities inside Iraq." Do you think it's a wise thing to speak of military action while everybody is seeking a diplomatic solution?

Schulte: The goal is to achieve a diplomatic settlement. There's no question about that, and we're working very hard to do that. We're working with Russia, with China, with the countries of Europe, [and] we're working with the support of countries like India and Egypt, Brazil, and Argentina. The goal is to get a diplomatic settlement. We're not looking for a confrontation; we're looking for cooperation. We're looking for serious negotiations. But the leaders in Iran need to demonstrate through their actions that they're prepared for serious negotiations.

Iran's Nuclear Program

Iran's Nuclear Program

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An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.