US warns Iran force is an option in nuclear standoff

The Jerusalem Post

US undersecretary of state for arms control, John Bolton, said on Saturday that President George W. Bush was not considering military action to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but force remained an option.

"The president has repeatedly said that all options are on the table. But that is not only not our preference, it is far, far from our minds," Bolton told British Broadcasting Corp. radio on Friday.

At the European summit in Porto Carras, Greece, EU leaders said Friday they were "seriously concerned" about the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

In a final statement, the leaders called on Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to make good his commitment to "full transparency" on Iran's nuclear program.

Iran says its nuclear program is designed solely to produce electrical energy, particularly after its oil wells run dry.

Iran said Friday it would continue to block the UN nuclear watchdog from taking environmental samples at a particular site, setting the stage for confrontation with the world body.

The refusal announced by Iran's nuclear chief on state television indicated a sudden hardening of Iran's attitude toward the International Atomic Energy Agency. On Thursday the country said it welcomed the comments of the IAEA board meeting in Vienna and earlier this week it said it was "studying positively" an IAEA report on Iran.

The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, called Monday for Iran to allow the agency "to take environmental samples at the particular location where allegations about enrichment activities exist."

Agency inspectors were turned away from a site at Kalaye, west of Tehran, last week after they came to take environmental samples. Iranian officials have never publicly disclosed what the Kalaye site is used for, but the country is suspected of testing nuclear centrifuges there.

In its nightly news bulletin Friday, Iranian television said the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, would not permit environmental sampling at "some locations." It did not name the locations.

"This is contrary to agreements signed (between Iran and the IAEA) and we will not allow this," Aghazadeh said.

"We've had no problem concerning environmental samples, but we've been telling the IAEA that this location is not a nuclear location, so that if you want take environmental samples, this is outside the framework of the protocol," Aghazadeh said. He did not identify the location.

"If we accept to operate outside the framework of the protocol, it will have no ending ... and tomorrow ten other locations may be named," said Aghazadeh, who was shown speaking to a state television reporter.

The United States suspects Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb - a charge Iran denies. The US delegation to the IAEA has pushed for the agency to declare Iran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

At the end of a four-day board meeting in Vienna on Thursday, the IAEA urged Iran to stop enriching nuclear fuel and to allow greater access to its nuclear facilities.

The IAEA said it expected Iran "to grant the agency all access deemed necessary" to defuse suspicions Tehran is operating a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

Aghazadeh did not respond Friday to the IAEA demand for a cessation of uranium enrichment.

IAEA inspectors are expected to return to Iran next month in what will be the first test of Tehran's willingness to comply with the agency's requests.

"I trust, I expect, that Iran will enable us to do all that we need to do," ElBaradei said during this week's board meeting.