Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, visiting New York City to address the United Nations General Assembly, insists his nation's nuclear program is peaceful. John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaks with Alex Chadwick about the diplomatic standoff over Iran's nuclear power program. Below is an excerpt from that conversation:
Alex Chadwick: The U.S. position on Iran, as I understand it, is that Iran must suspend uranium enrichment before the U.S. engages in direct talks with that country. But shouldn't enrichment be an end-point of negotiation?
Ambassador Bolton: Not at all. The Iranians for the past three years have used their ongoing negotiations with the Europeans to continue to perfect various important aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle — the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade concentrations, the conversion of uranium from a solid to a gas — a whole series of very complex scientific and technological steps that they've been able to accomplish while negotiations have been going on. That's why the precondition is so important — and let me say, that's not just an American precondition. That's the precondition that the European countries have insisted, that the Security Council... all five of its permanent members have insisted upon, and that a large majority of the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency have insisted upon. So that's a position that's very widely shared.
Chadwick: Much of our information on Iran's nuclear program comes from the international Atomic Energy Agency. That's a U.N. agency, the same one that said before the Iraq War that Iraq did not have an active nuclear weapons program. Turns out, the IAEA was correct then — we went to war anyway over weapons of mass destruction. Do you now accept the IAEA as a very authoritative — maybe the authoritative — body on questions of nuclear weapons?
Bolton: Well, it's a source of information, and I'd say the bulk of the information that is publicly known has come through the IAEA. And in fact, it's that public information that leads to what we think is the inescapable conclusion that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. We have other information that supports that as well. But there's no other conclusion you can draw, even from the public ally available information, in our view. What the IAEA knows about Iran is what it knows — and there's a lot it doesn't know, and a lot that we don't know. That's why any suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment activities has to be fully verifiable. And given the pattern that the Iranians have followed for many years now — lying to the IAEA, of concealing data... actually deconstructing buildings and plowing up hundreds of cubic yards of dirt to keep evidence of their nuclear activity away from the IAEA — is basis for our concern about their activity.
Chadwick: But sir, the IAEA itself has not reached the conclusion that you say you have.
Bolton: That is a conclusion that we have drawn because of the range and scope of Iranian activities. But the IAEA has also concluded that they can't say that the program is peaceful — which they do say to many other programs. Let me give you one example, one piece of information: The Iranians have documents that they received from the [Pakistani nuclear scientist] A.Q. Khan proliferation network that show how to fabricate uranium metal into... hemispheres. There's no reason to know how to do that, unless you're manufacturing nuclear weapons — that has absolutely nothing to do with the production of peaceful nuclear energy.