President Bush has raised concerns
at the United Nations about Iran's nuclear program and is calling for more international
pressure on Iran to disclose the full extent of its program to the International
Atomic Energy Agency by the end of October. Iran insists its nuclear program
is for peaceful purposes only.
President Bush has warned that Iran must stop what he said is a secret nuclear
weapons program. "It is very important for the world to come together to make
it very clear to Iran that there will be universal condemnation, if they continue
with a nuclear weapons program," he said.
The warnings come after U.N. inspectors this year found traces of weapons-grade
enriched uranium at power plants in Iran.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told the United National General Assembly
his country is complying with all treaties dealing with non-proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction. He spoke through a translator, saying "The political
pressure against the Islamic Republic of Iran to set aside its inalienable rights
to develop peaceful nuclear technology is, unfortunately, mounting in circumstances
where some nuclear weapons states are testing advanced tactical weapons programs."
Mr. Kharrazi indicated his country would not meet the IAEA's October 31 deadline
to provide proof that its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes.
But Iran political expert Farideh Farhi of the University of Hawaii said
Iran's final response depends on the power struggles between hard-liners and
reformists in Tehran. "The seeming united stance taken by Europe and the United
States has surprised many in Europe, and has opened the floodgate for domestic
discussions about what to do and why Iran finds itself in the current situation," she
Ms. Farhi said pundits and politicians have viewed Iran's pursuit of a nuclear
program as either a legitimate means of deterrence, or a bargaining chip in
its foreign policy, much like North Korea.
"In this way, nuclear weapons are seen as an asset when dealing with Washington
- the only way of forcing the United States to adopt a more cautious approach
accompanied with respect," she said.
Ms. Farhi said the hard-liners also are shifting the debate from nuclear
strategy to sovereignty. "This is something, given the international double
standards on the issue, (which) resonates with the population. Iran sits, after
all, right in the middle of a region with neighbors that have declared or undeclared
nuclear weapons programs."
Still, some experts like Magnus Ranstorp say Iranian fears of direct U.S.
action will affect how the government responds to U.N. demands to clarify its
nuclear capabilities. Mr. Ranstorp is director of the Center for Terrorism
and the Study of Violence at Saint Andrews University in Scotland.
"I wouldn't say that the U.S. would precipitate taking any military action,
but certainly, I think, the Iranians are quite nervous right now [about] what
are the U.S. intentions," he said.
Taking the diplomatic route, President Bush has been urging U.N. members
to press Iran to comply with the U.N. atomic agency's demands. The White House
says the matter should go to the U.N. Security Council, if Iran does not.