- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

The White House yesterday issued tepid praise for a watered-down agreement by Iran to suspend its nuclear programs, but reserved the right to take a harder line against Tehran if it reneges on the deal.

“It’s a start,” said a senior administration official. “But we’ve seen these agreements before and, unfortunately, Iran hasn’t always lived up to them.”

Although the agreement spared Iran from being referred to the United Nations Security Council by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for economic sanctions, the United States said it might issue such a referral unilaterally.

“I don’t think we take things off the table,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. “We always reserve the right, as a member of the Security Council, to take that matter to the Security Council.”

The administration had sought a legally binding agreement by Iran to stop all programs that could lead to the development of nuclear weapons. But Iran insisted its freeze is merely a voluntary step aimed at building confidence in the international community.

So the IAEA described the move similarly in a resolution the watchdog group passed yesterday that approved the freeze as part of a deal between Iran and three members of the European Union — France, Germany and Britain. Iranian President Mohammed Khatami trumpeted the resolution while taking a veiled swipe at the United States.

“This resolution which was approved by the IAEA was a definite defeat for our enemies who wanted to pressure Iran by sending its case to the U.N. Security Council,” he was quoted as saying by Iran’s state-run radio.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher expressed disappointment that the IAEA stopped short of referring Iran to the Security Council.

“While we might have preferred a different outcome, while we might have preferred referral, we went along with the resolution,” he said. “We expressed our reservations about today’s decisions, but we now look to the International Atomic Energy Agency to continue its investigation into Iran’s safeguards.”

One reason the administration went along with the watered-down version of the agreement was a firm belief that Iran eventually will renege.

“The United States remains as skeptical as ever that Iran will, in fact, live up to the terms of this agreement,” Mr. Boucher said. “If they do violate it — in the pure skeptic’s view, when they violate it — it will be reported, and that’ll be the basis for further action.”

He added that by taking on the role of “bad cop” to counterbalance Europe’s “good cop,” the United States has “had some influence. We’ve seen the international community toughen its stance.”

In Tehran, the agreement was protested yesterday by hundreds of militia members, who hurled rocks and fireworks at the British Embassy. Insisting Iran’s nuclear ambitions were peaceful, the protesters chanted: “Nuclear energy is our right.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide