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19 February 2004

White House Seriously Concerned by Reports of Iranian WMD Activity

White House Report, Feb. 19: Iran, Iraq, Haiti, India/Pakistan

The Bush administration is seriously concerned by new reports that Iran is enriching uranium and possesses advanced centrifuge designs, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters February 19.

The reports "that we are seeing of Iran enriching uranium and possessing more advanced centrifuge designs" than previously declared "raise serious concerns," he said.

He noted that President Bush, in recent remarks at the National Defense University, talked about how Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan and his associates provided Iran with designs for Pakistan's older centrifuge as well as designs for more advanced and efficient models.

McClellan reminded reporters that a few months ago Iran agreed to implement an additional protocol to stop enriching and reprocessing uranium and related activities and to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"The IAEA inspectors have been in Iran looking at these programs, and we look forward to hearing from the director general of the IAEA at the March board meeting and discussing the matter further at that time," he said.

"We have always stated our belief that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons program under the cover of pursuing nuclear power for peaceful reasons. A country with the vast oil and gas resources of Iran has no legitimate need for nuclear energy, and full confidence about Iran's nuclear program requires Iran to abandon uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities," he said.


McClellan said he thinks "everybody recognizes the importance of moving forward to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people on the timetable that was spelled out in the November 15th agreement." There is wide agreement on moving forward to meet that timetable," he said.

Noting that the United Nations had sent a team to Iraq to look at the feasibility of elections by that date, he said, "I think that there's certainly been wide agreement there, too, that elections by the date of the transfer of sovereignty is not something that is feasible at this point."

But McClellan reminded reporters that the agreement between the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council "spelled out very clearly the importance of holding free, fair, and open elections. And it calls for three such elections moving forward," he said.

It is a complicated matter, he said, "when you talk about transferring sovereignty to a representative transitional government."

"And that's why we've said we're willing to discuss refinements and clarifications to the framework that was agreed to on November 15th, but that we should continue to move forward on the timetable that was spelled out in that agreement," he said.

Regarding the role of the United Nations, McClellan made clear that the Bush administration has "always said, and the president believes very strongly, that the United Nations has a vital role to play in Iraq.

"The United Nations was playing a vital role in Iraq prior to being attacked by terrorists in Baghdad. And we are hopeful that they will be able to play a vital role in the future. And those are discussions we'll continue to have with the United Nations and the secretary-general."


The continuing fighting in Haiti between groups supporting and opposing the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide has caused "a difficult situation," McClellan told reporters, and the United States continues to work closely with governments in the Caribbean, with the Organization of American States, with France and other countries to bring about a peaceful political resolution to the fighting.

In addition, he said, efforts are continuing "to make sure that those who need humanitarian assistance are getting that assistance."


"(T)ensions are decreasing" between India and Pakistan, McClellan said when asked to comment on the situation in the subcontinent.

"(W)e saw the joint statement that was put out at the end of the initial talks between the foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India and that lays out a schedule for bilateral discussions. And we welcome these efforts and applaud the vision and the determination of the governments of India and Pakistan to seek a peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues," he said.