- The Washington Times - Friday, September 25, 2009

UPDATED:

PITTSBURGH | President Obama on Friday morning charged Iran with developing a secret nuclear facility for the last several years, in a stern statement delivered with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said sanctions will be imposed if Iran does not change course by December.

“Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow,” Mr. Obama said, flanked by Mr. Brown and Mr. Sarkozy at the beginning of a day of meetings on the global economy.

He demanded that the International Atomic Energy Agency “immediately investigate this disturbing information and immediately” report on its findings. Officials with the U.S., British and French government presented “detailed evidence” of the secret uranium enrichment site to IAEA officials in Vienna on Thursday, Mr. Obama said.

“The Iranian government must now demonstrate through deeds its peaceful intentions or be held accountable to international standards and international law,” he said, adding that his administration remains open to “meaningful engagement” with Iran, but only if they can demonstrate that they are enriching uranium for energy uses only.

The president’s statement was grim but lawyerly, with multiple references to international responsibitlies that Iran must adhere to and to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which is a bulwark of the administration’s strategy to hem in Tehran. Mr. Obama did not mention sanctions.

By contrast, Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Brown both talked of sanctions at the United Nations Security Council, and expressed anger and outrage at the news.

“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,” Mr. Brown said. “The international community has no choice today but to draw a line in the sand.”

Mr. Sarkozy said that “everything must be put on the table now” when representatives from Western countries meet with Iranian negotiators on Oct. 1.

“If by December there is not an in-depth change by the Iranian leaders, sanctions will have to be taken,” he said.

News of the site is a bombshell revelation that will likely give the White House more grounds to gain international consensus around fresh sanctions on the Iranian regime.

U.S. intelligence has known about the underground facility, which is about 100 miles southwest of the capital, for years. Mr. Obama decided to go public with the news now because Iran has become aware of U.S. knowledge of the project, according to original reports by the New York Times confirmed by the White House to the Washington Times.

The disclosure comes as the Obama administration has been laying the groundwork all week to increase international pressure on the Iranian regime to stop pursuing nuclear weapons.

Tehran insists its uranium enrichment is for energy use only, but the discovery of secret enrichment sites undercuts their claims.

Mr. Obama said the site “deepens a growing concern” about the truthfulness of Iranian claims to be enriching uranium for peaceful uses only.

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