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Leaders of the U.S., Britain and France, today, accused Iran of secretly developing a facility that could provide the material for a nuclear bomb. They called for an immediate investigation by international inspectors and said Iran must come clean about its nuclear program or face a fresh round of sanctions.
NPRs Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY: Administration officials say the underground nuclear facility has been in the works in Iran for several years and that U.S. intelligence has known about it for some time. But President Obama says Irans government tried to keep the existence of the heavily disguised facility a secret until this week when it finally notified the International Atomic Energy Agency.
President BARACK OBAMA: The international community knows this is not the first time that Iran has concealed information about its nuclear program. Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear power that meets the energy needs of its people. But the size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program.
HORSLEY: Administration officials say once finished the complex would have housed some 3,000 centrifuges too small for making commercial quantities of nuclear power plant fuel, but big enough to supply one or two nuclear bombs a year once it was up and running. Mr. Obama was joined in denouncing the clandestine program today by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Brown said the international community now has no choice but to draw a line in the sand against Iran.
Prime Minister GORDON BROWN (United Kingdom): The level of deception by the Iranian government and the scale of what we believe is the breach of international commitments will shock and anger the whole international community and it will harden our resolve.
HORSLEY: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad countered with his own news conference today. He insisted Iran had no obligation to disclose the enrichment facility until now because, he said, its still 18 months from being operational. News of the secret enrichment facility comes just one week before Iran is scheduled to hold nuclear negotiations with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, which has been a major contractor on some of Irans projects. Mr. Obama said Iran must be prepared to cooperate fully at that meeting or else face the consequences.
Pres. OBAMA: Through this dialogue we are committed to demonstrating that international law is not an empty promise, that obligations must be kept and that treaties will be enforced.
HORSLEY: The administrations also been urging Russia and China to bring pressure to bear. The Kremlin issued a statement today calling Irans construction of a secret nuclear facility a violation of U.N. Security Council measures, and Russia echoed Western calls for an investigation. On that basis, Mr. Obama could say the international community is increasingly aligned against Irans nuclear program, adding that what happens next is up to Iran.
Pres. OBAMA: We have offered Iran a clear path toward greater international integration if it lives up to its obligations, and that offer stands. But the Iranian government must now demonstrate, through deeds, its peaceful intentions or be held accountable to international standards and international law.
HORSLEY: Added one administration official: The ball is in their court.
Scott Horsley, NPR News at the G-20 Summit at Pittsburgh.
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